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The top stories of 2006
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10. Look who's back
Just when you thought the Phil Mickelson of old — you remember him, the guy who'd pull driver when the situation absolutely demanded he hit three-iron — was gone for good, along came the 2006 U.S. Open.
Mickelson came to the 18th tee with a one-shot lead over Geoff Ogilvy and likely needed nothing better than a par to put himself halfway toward the Grand Slam.
That's not a good time to hit the worst shot of your career — a slice that bounced off a hospitality tent. As bad as that shot was, Mickelson compounded the error with a series of questionable decisions.
He tried to cut a three-iron around a tree, only to watch it hit the trunk and ricochet right back at him. A second cut shot then found the left greenside bunker, making the back right pin an almost impossible play — as he proved when his sand shot trickled off the green. His bogey chip to force a playoff never had a chance.
"I just can't believe that I did that," Mickelson would say afterward. "I am such an idiot."
9. In a Flash
The Mavericks had won the first two games of the NBA Finals and were just six minutes away from taking an all-but-insurmountable 3-0 series lead.
Enter Dwyane Wade. Scoring 12 of his game-high 42 points in those final 360 seconds, Wade helped the Heat rally from a 13-point deficit and win Game 3, 98-96.
And Wade didn't stop there. He scored 36, 43 and 36 points, respectively, in the next three games — all Miami wins — as the Heat completed the unlikely rally to win their first NBA championship.
8. Highs and lows
Ben Roethlisberger certainly had an eventful 2006.
It started with the second-year quarterback improbably leading the Steelers to a win in Super Bowl XL (even if his biggest play was a defensive one, a game-saving tackle of Indy's Nick Harper after he recovered a Jerome Bettis fumble).
It almost ended in June, as a helmet-less Roethlisberger crashed his motorcycle, going over the handlebars of the bike and shattering the windshield of an oncoming car with his head.
Roethlisberger suffered fractures to the jaw and right sinus cavity, a nine-inch laceration to the back of his head and two lost teeth. But he was well enough to start for the Steelers as soon as the preseason.
7. 25 million reasons to live
On the night of September 27, 2006, Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens was rushed by ambulance to Baylor Medical Center. But it wasn't until the next morning that the real firestorm started.
That's when several media outlets reported that Owens had attempted suicide by intentionally overdosing on hydrocodone, a generic form of Vicodin.
According to the details of the police report, T.O.'s publicist, Kim Etheredge, called 911 about a suicide attempt and told the paramedics who arrived on the scene that Owens was depressed.
Owens and Etheredge would both deny that any suicide attempt had taken place, blaming the incident on an allergic reaction to the pain medication T.O. was taking for a broken bone in his hand.
"Terrell has 25 million reasons to be alive," Etheredge famously said.
6. Landis wins Tour, then loses it
Lance Armstrong was gone, but America's dominance of the Tour de France was apparently going to continue.
Floyd Landis, a 30-year-old son of an Amish farmer, won the event in the closest three-way finish in the history of the Tour. Landis had appeared to fall out of contention following stage 16, dropping from first to 11th, more than eight minutes behind the leaders. But the next day, he mounted one of the more stirring comebacks in Tour history, pulling to within 30 seconds of the lead and using that rally as a springboard to the yellow jersey.
But four days after the Tour, it was announced Landis had tested positive for synthetic testosterone and a ratio of testosterone-to-epitestosterone more than three times the allowed limit following that historic Stage 17 comeback.
Landis would be stripped of the title and runner-up Oscar Pereiro would be declared the winner.
5. Barbaro breaks down
Almost every year after the Kentucky Derby, hope springs eternal that we might be witnessing a potential Triple Crown winner.
In 2006, it was more than just hope.
Barbaro had become just the sixth horse to enter the Kentucky Derby with a perfect record and leave with it intact. His 6 1/2-length win in the Derby also represented the largest margin of victory in 60 years.
But rather than becoming the second leg of a run to history, the Preakness instead would be witness to tragedy.
Shortly after the race started, jockey Edgar Prado pulled Barbaro up, quickly dismounted and grabbed the horse's injured right hind leg in an effort to keep pressure off it.
Barbaro had broken his leg in 20 places and even after a successful — not to mention, pioneering — surgery, his chances for survival were considered 50-50 at best. But his fight for his life drew worldwide attention, as thousands of get-well messages flooded the New Bolton Center.
After some encouraging initial developments, complications set in and Barbaro was euthanized on January 29, 2007.
4. Cinderella story
Upsets are part and parcel of the NCAA tournament. In fact, they're a big part of the appeal of March Madness.
But usually the Davids only stick around for a round or two after slaying Goliath, then get out of the way and let the big boys cut down the nets.
In 2006, however, Cinderella stayed way past the stroke of midnight.
George Mason had never won an NCAA tournament game in the school's history and was actually quite fortunate to get an at-large bid to the tournament, sneaking in as a No. 11 seed.
Once they got to the tourney, however, the Patriots showed they definitely belonged.
George Mason became just the second double-digit seed to make it to the Final Four and the first in two decades, beating powerhouses Michigan State, North Carolina and Connecticut before finally losing to eventual champion Florida.
3. Father's day
Tiger Woods' first tournament back after the death of his father, Earl, went pretty much as you would have expected it to, given that he'd picked the torture test also known as the U.S. Open to make his return to competitive golf after a nine-week layoff. A still rusty and emotionally unprepared Woods missed the cut in a major championship for the first time as a pro.
But he'd clearly shaken the rust off by the time the British Open rolled around, as he narrowly missed tying his own Open scoring record while cruising to his second straight Claret Jug.
Of course, we're used to seeing that from Tiger. What we saw after Woods sank the putt on No. 18 to put the finishing touches on his 11th major championship? Well, we'd never witnessed that before, as Woods buried his head in caddie Steve Williams' shoulder and wept uncontrollably.
"At that moment, it just came pouring out," Woods said. "And all of the things that my father has meant to me and the game of golf, I just wish he would have seen it one more time."
2. Coming up Roses
If USC converted on a fourth-and-two from the Texas 45 with 2:09 left in the Rose Bowl, the Trojans would have been able to run out the clock, win a third title in as many years and work their way into the "greatest of all time" discussion behind the strength of a 35th consecutive win.
But LenDale White was stopped inches short of the first, opening the door for the Longhorns.
And Vince Young promptly ran through it.
Young, who finished with 200 rushing yards and 267 more through the air in the ultimate rebuttal to the Heisman voters (he finished second, behind USC's Reggie Bush), quickly led his team down the field.
Facing a fourth-and-five from USC’s 9, Young scrambled untouched into the end zone to give Texas the 41-38 win and the school’s first national championship since 1970.
1. You butt head
Before the final game of the 2006 World Cup, French midfielder Zinedine Zidane was awarded the Golden Ball as the best player of the competition.
By the end of it, FIFA was probably wishing it had waited. That way, it could have avoided giving that honor to a player who’d been ejected from the game for head butting an opponent and was therefore unavailable as his team lost in penalty kicks.
Provoked by Italy’s Marco Materazzi (the actual taunt has never been ascertained, but lip-readers’ best guesses have ranged from a taunt about Zidane’s sister to accusations that Zidane was a dirty terrorist), Zidane responded with a head butt to his chest.
The ensuing red card brought an ignoble end to both Zidane’s Cup and his international playing career. It also severely hurt France’s chances at a second Cup in the last three tournaments, as Italy prevailed in penalty kicks, 5-3.