Underdog. Beating the big boys. Wasn't supposed to win. All qualities for a great Sportsman of the Week. 35-year-old American Gary Woodland was well below the radar for the 119th United States Open, but put together four consecutive rounds at 2 under par or better. Only two other golfers finished all four rounds under (John Rahm, Brooks Koepka). Woodland had only one tour win since 2013, and that was a playoff win over a year prior in 2018. But Woodland entered Sunday with the lead, with big dogs chasing him. Like 2-time defending champion Koepka. Former major winners Louis Oosthuizen and Justin Rose. Even Tiger Woods who birdied six of his last 12 holes. But Woodland didn't fluster. He didn't have his best round, but down the stretch he didn't falter. He punctuated his win by, while needing just a 3-putt, putting in a 30 foot putt dead center. And took his trophy. And the Sportsman of the Week!
Pitching a no-hitter is a frequent path to the Sportsman of the Week. Striking out 19 batters in a game would similarly get you there. Doing both? Really strong chance. Vanderbilt's Kumar Rocker pitched the game of his life, when his team really needed it to win a pivotal Game 2 of a 3 game set against the Duke Blue Devils. In an elimination game, Rocker threw 131 pitches, 89 for strikes (57 in the strikouts) to send the series to the third game, which the top ranked Commodores also won. It was Rocker's 10th win of the year. He only walked 2 facing 2 more than the minimum in the first no-hitter in NCAA Super Regional history. Rocker rocked the Blue Devils and duly earns the Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!
This Blog always loves an underdog and an unexpected champion. Andy Ruiz Jr. fits both. Even at 6'2", 270 pounds, and significantly lacking what we would call "muscle definition". The American heavyweight of Mexican descent survived the first knockdown of his career to beat British Champion Anthony Joshua by 7th round Technical Knockout Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City. In a wild third round, Ruiz Jr. was felled once, but came up inspired and sent Joshua to the canvas twice. Joshua never seemed to be the same. Ruiz Jr. again floored him twice in the 7th round, the second Joshua looked reluctant to continue and that was that. Ruiz Jr. went off as an 11-1 underdog, but now sits at 33-1 with 22 KO. The one loss to Joseph Parker, then Heavyweight Champion. But now, Ruiz Jr. is champion. Joshua is contractually guaranteed a rematch and certainly will have his full attention on Ruiz Jr. But it is Ruiz Jr. who is now the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO Champions. And the Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!