MOORESVILLE, N.C. – The initial roster at the 2019 U.S. Open was pretty stout, filled with the sport’s top performers and many up-and-coming young standouts.
What’s left, now that the field has been cut to the top 24 for round-robin match play, could be mistaken for the first draft of a publication celebrating the greatest players of the Professional Bowlers Association’s second 50 years.
Among those remaining in contention for the $30,000 top prize, coveted green jacket and final major championship on the 2019 PBA Tour schedule are 17 PBA Tour titlists, 12 PBA major champions, including seven past U.S. Open winners, and eight players who have reached the television finals at the prestigious event since it returned from a one-year hiatus in 2015.
The overall lead changed hands a few times during the eight games of match play Monday night at Victory Lanes, and 2016 U.S. Open winner Francois Lavoie of Canada finished the day atop the standings with an 8,729 total. His score includes pinfall for 40 games and 30 bonus pins for each of his six wins in match play.
Anthony Simonsen of Little Elm, Texas, is second with 8,694 and followed by Bill O’Neill of Langhorne, Pennsylvania (8,668), left-hander Jesper Svensson of Sweden (8,588) and Houston’s Shawn Maldonado (8,574).
“Keeping the momentum going tomorrow will be about staying smart and patient,” Lavoie said. “I think I have a good process and routine, and sticking to what I’ve been doing is key. It’s kind of repetitive, but that’s what it is. You don’t want to get ahead of yourself. You want to take every frame separately, one at a time, especially with a pattern this tough.”
The biggest move of the day came from Brandon Novak of Chillicothe, Ohio, who averaged more than 220 on the way to a 6-2 record. He started match play in 21st place and now is sixth in the standings, just 37 pins below the cutline.
The 31-year-old right-hander is one of the seven remaining players without a PBA Tour title. Monday night’s performance left him comfortable and confident on the 40-foot oil pattern being used for the cashers’ round, match play and championship round.
“I’m feeling pretty confident with the pattern, and even though the initial idea was to start a little straighter, that wasn’t really the right place for me, so I moved in and played the dry most of the eight games and was able to stay with the same ball,” said Novak, the Regular All-Events champion at the 2016 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships. “I did make a few small mistakes, otherwise I could’ve bowled better some of the games, but I definitely feel good going into tomorrow. Hopefully, I can make something happen.”
Sean Rash of Montgomery, Illinois, was the qualifying leader after Monday’s eight-game cashers’ round, averaging nearly 214 over the event’s first 32 games. He closed the cashers’ round with games of 253 and 268 to surge into the lead for the first time this week.
Despite only going 1-7 in his first eight matches, the two-time major champion is in ninth place and just 61 pins outside of the top five. With 16 games remaining, there’s only 95 pins between fifth and 10th place.
Defending champion Dom Barrett of England also advanced to match play. He posted a 2-6 match-play record and currently is 21st in the standings with an 8,316 total. He’s looking to make his third U.S. Open telecast since 2015. He was the runner-up that year, falling to left-hander Ryan Ciminelli in the title match.
Competition at the 2019 U.S. Open will resume Tuesday with two additional rounds of matches, beginning at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern.
At the conclusion of the evening block, 56-game pinfall totals, including bonus pins, will determine the five players for the stepladder finals, which will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network on Wednesday at 8 p.m. EDT.
The field this week started with 144 players, all of whom bowled 24 games of qualifying over three days (eight games each day). Each round featured a different oil pattern, and a fourth lane condition was introduced for the cashers’ round, match play and championship round.
All rounds leading up to the TV show are being broadcast live at BowlTV.com and simulcast on FloBowling.
The U.S. Open is conducted jointly by USBC and the Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America.