INDIANAPOLIS – A winter storm may have delayed the start of the final round of qualifying at 2022 U.S. Open, but the competitors at Woodland Bowl wasted no time delivering the flurry of strikes that were forecasted for the day’s 41-foot lane condition.
Anthony Simonsen of Las Vegas, an eight-time Professional Bowlers Association Tour champion and the runner-up at the U.S. Open in 2020, was the day’s top performer, averaging more than 239 over eight games Thursday to lock up his spot in Friday’s Cashers’ Round, where the week’s best over three rounds will continue to fight for a shot at the $100,000 top prize, custom trophy and iconic green jacket.
The overall leader for the 24 games was EJ Tackett of nearby Bluffton, Indiana, who finally was able to take the top spot in the standings. He was second after each of the first two rounds this week, and his 1,804 block Thursday landed him in the lead with a 5,238 total, a 218.25 average.
The 29-year-old right-hander was followed by Simonsen (5,232), Australia’s Jason Belmonte (5,161), AJ Johnson of Oswego, Illinois (5,151), and Tom Daugherty of Riverview, Florida (5,141).
“I bowled 40 over yesterday, which I felt was above average for how difficult the pattern was, and I was able to follow that up with a great day today to get the lead back,” said Tackett, who owns two major titles and a best finish at the U.S. Open of fourth (2018). “I’ve just been trying to knock down as many pins as possible and keep myself in good position moving forward.”
Kyle Sherman of O’Fallon, Missouri, made the biggest move of the day, surging from 84th place after two rounds into the top 25. His 1,883 effort helped him to a 4,913 total and 23rd place.
Chad Roberts of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, claimed the final spot in the Cashers’ Round with a 4,850 total, a 202.8 average.
Defending champion Chris Via of Blacklick, Ohio, just missed the cut, finishing in 44th place with 4,820.
This week, the competitors are facing a variety of conditions ranging from 37 to 45 feet. They know going in that they may not be comfortable on all of them, so how they handle the frustrating moments sometimes can be as important as taking advantage of any momentum as it comes.
For Tackett, a real mental test came Wednesday on the flat 37-foot oil pattern everyone expected to be incredibly challenging.
He managed to shoot the day’s highest game, 299, in Game 6, before tossing one of the day’s lowest games, 137, immediately after. His response was far different than it would’ve been during his rookie campaign a decade ago, and he was able to close the block with 222.
“I knew the pattern yesterday was going to be hard, and it would be tough not to bowl 150 at some point,” Tackett said. “Sometimes, you catch a pair where the ball does the exact opposite of what it did on the pair before. Before you know it, you’re in the ninth frame, which is what happened to me, and I didn’t throw my first strike until the fill ball. I stayed calm and got all I could, and I walked away hoping the next pair would be better. Fortunately, it was, and I was able to finish strong, which always helps going into the next day. I definitely was able to handle the situation much better than I might’ve in the past.”
All rounds of qualifying and match play this week are being broadcast live at BowlTV.com, and the event will conclude with a five-player stepladder live on FS1 on Sunday at 5 p.m. Eastern.
Competition at the 2022 U.S. Open will resume Friday at 11 a.m. Eastern, and the tournament’s remaining 32 games all will be contested on a fourth oil pattern, which will be 40 feet in length.
As one of the longest and most prestigious events in bowling, players expect the U.S. Open to be both mentally trying and physically demanding, and navigating the challenges begins on practice day.
During practice, they have 90 minutes to find a feel for each pattern, including Pattern 4, which they may not even get a chance to see, unless they perform well over the event’s first three days.
Tackett typically chooses to skip the fourth session, knowing that if he advances to the Cashers’ Round, he’ll have another opportunity to see what the final pattern is all about. Sometimes, that may require new equipment, which can be determined during a late-night practice session that falls after the third round of qualifying.
Because the weather pushed Thursday’s squads back two hours, the practice session now will take place Friday morning before the Cashers’ Round, and there won’t be time to select and drill balls before competition begins.
“I haven’t actually bowled on the fourth pattern yet, but I drilled a couple balls I’m hoping will help me the rest of the way,” Tackett said. “I never have bowled on the last pattern during the main practice session because so much time will pass before we see it. I don’t want to get a preconceived notion, so I wait. This time, because of the weather and schedule change, it was a blind guess for the new balls. Usually, we practice, then drill, but this year is a little different. They may make the bag, they may not. I just want to be prepared.”
All 108 entrants bowled 24 games over three days this week, before the field was cut to the top 36 for the eight-game Cashers’ Round. After 32 games, total pinfall will determine the 24 bowlers for round-robin match play, and 56-game totals, including 30 bonus pins for each win in match play, will determine Sunday’s finalists.
The first eight games of match play will get underway Friday at 6 p.m. EST, and there will be eight-games blocks Saturday at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. EST.
The field this week in Indianapolis was made of up the sport’s top performers in recent seasons. It included the leaders on the PBA Tour points list, Team USA and Junior Team members, top performers at USBC events and PBA majors, and those who advanced from an on-site pre-tournament qualifier last weekend.
The 2022 U.S. Open is a collaborative effort between USBC and the Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America. The total prize fund for the event will be $282,000.
The last time the event awarded a six-figure prize to the champion was 2009.
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