November 24, 2006 19:00
If anyone feels comfortable trying to break a nearly two-year losing streak for top seeds in stepladder finals, it’s Chris Barnes who was the last top seed to win a title when he won the 62nd U.S. Open, 213-212, over Patrick Allen.
Barnes earned the top seed for Sunday’s Discover® Card Windy City Classic championship at Hawthorn Lanes by going 13-5 in match play Friday with a 253.67 average.
The seven-time titlist was nearly unstoppable in the second block of round robin Friday night, going 8-1 with a 253.89 over the final nine games. The only game he lost was by a 279-258 score to Parker Bohn III.
Part of the reason Barnes wasn’t as successful in the first block – if 7-2 can be considered unsuccessful - was that he bowled four PBA Hall of Famers in the first eight games. Barnes lost of three of the four matches, defeating Tom Baker 260-258, before falling to Walter Ray Williams Jr. (243-233), Parker Bohn III (264-231) and Pete Weber (228-218).
Barnes (Flower Mound, Texas) will be joined in the finals by two other Texas residents – No. 2 seed Mike Scroggins (Amarillo, Texas) and No. 3 Wes Malott (Argyle, Texas).
Scroggins’ run through Friday’s match play was eerily similar to the run Tony Reyes made in earning the No. 2 seed for the Motor City Classic earlier this season, an event he went on to win.
That week, Reyes was 14th heading into the final nine games of match before going 8-1 with a 255.44 average to move into the No. 2 spot. This week, Scroggins was tied for 13th going into the final nine games, but went 7-2 with a 259.67 average to also earn the No. 2 seed. Whether or not Scroggins can shoot 300 and win the title like Reyes remains to be seen.
Scroggins is doing his best to prove his career-best 2005-06 season was no fluke, as he’s already making his second TV appearance of the season after a career-high six last season.
The lefty has struggled on TV since winning the 2005 USBC Masters, going 1-6 with a 198.86 average. He’s currently riding a four-game losing streak on TV. Scroggins has been successful in the No. 2 spot before, however, winning his Masters title as the second seed.
The biggest reason Scroggins might have the edge Sunday is that he has dominated the Scorpion the past couple seasons. Scroggins has made the championship round in each of the last three events on the pattern, including third-place finishes in the Empire State Classic and the West Virginia Championship last season. Including this week, he’s finished in the top 10 in six of the last seven events on the pattern.
Quietly having another great start to the season is Wes Malott, who is making his Tour-high third TV appearance of the season. Last season, Malott made the finals in each of the first four events, winning his first career title in his third TV appearance of the season.
Malott has grown to love the round robin format, making the championship round in each of the last three round robin events. He was the top seed in the most recent stepladder final, falling to Tony Reyes as the No. 1 seed in the Motor City Classic.
In fact, three of today’s finalists were in the Taylor, Mich., finals, the third being Parker Bohn III. Motor City Classic champion Tony Reyes nearly made it four-out-of-five, but he fell to Jack Jurek in the position round.
Bohn has been stuck on career title No. 30 for 37 events since winning the 2005 El Paso Classic. Like Malott, Bohn has mastered the round robin format, making the championship round in the three of the last five round robin events, including a runner-up finish in last season’s Dick Weber Open. He’s also made the finals in three of the last four events held at Hawthorn Lanes, but is still looking for his first title in the center.
The final bowler to clinch a spot in the championship round had to show impressive guts and determination to get there. Jack Jurek had a near-costly collapse Friday, before rallying for two big wins to make his second championship round of the season.
After going 6-3 in the first nine games to take the overall lead Friday, Jurek lost his first seven games in the second block to drop all the way to eighth. It would have been easy for the one-time titlist to throw in the towel, but he scratched his way to wins in the final two games, including a clutch 245-236 win in the position round over Tony Reyes.
The win gave Jurek a second TV appearance in a season for the first time in his 21-year career. He’s already enjoying the finest season of his career, surpassing his previous career high in season earnings by over $10,000.
To win his first title since the 1995 Tums Classic, however, Jurek will have to win four matches. He’d be the first No. 5 seed to win a title since the Dydo Japan Cup 2005 when Tommy Jones won the title, and just the second since 1999.
Jurek will need a little more luck Sunday than he’s had in his career thus far on TV. His opponents have not been nice to the 2005-06 Steve Nagy Sportsmanship Award winner, averaging 246.57 against him in his six TV appearances. That marks the highest opponent’s average in Tour history among bowlers with at least five TV appearances.
Regardless of the winner Sunday, this week’s event has proven that the cream indeed rises to the top in round robin events as each of Sunday’s finalists ranks in the top eight in the current PBA World Point Rankings. And with this week’s high scoring event, Sunday’s winner will most certainly have earned it.
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