February 28, 2007 19:00
After using the same ball throughout the first two days of competition in this week’s 64th U.S. Open, Mika Koivuniemi decided to change things up with a new ball Thursday morning.
The ball change resulted in an opening-game 168.
Going back to the Brunswick Fury he used in the first two rounds, the seven-time Denny’s PBA Tour titlist Koivuniemi averaged 225.00 over the final five games to lead the field heading into the final round of qualifying Friday with a 3,924 18-game pinfall and 218.00 average.
Koivuniemi leads 123 bowlers into Friday’s nine-game block, after which the top 24 will advance to round robin match play.
“The first game I changed to another ball and missed the pocket one time and shot 160 so I decided I was not going to change balls anymore. The Fury gives me strikes so it’s the best ball,” Koivuniemi said. “Right now, nothing is going to change. My game plan is still the same: to throw it at the 3-pin and throw it harder. If I make the top 24 I might look at it differently but right now there are still so many people playing different places.”
The 2001 U.S. Open champion, Koivuniemi (Hartland, Mich.) will be looking for his third career Major title. He won his seventh career title earlier this season in the Sun City Classic in El Paso, Texas.
Jeff Carter (Springfield, Ill.), who held the lead after Wednesday’s second round, is second with 3,885, while 24-year-old phenom Sean Rash (Wichita, Kan.), who has captured two titles this season, is third with 3,853.
Among the other bowlers advancing Thursday was three-time U.S. Open champion Pete Weber (St. Ann, Mo.) who sits eighth with 3,829 and all-time Tour title leader and two-time U.S. Open champion Walter Ray Williams Jr. (Ocala, Fla.) who is 12th with 3,807.
Kelly Kulick (Union, N.J.), the first woman to earn a full-season exemption on the Tour who is fighting to maintain that exemption for next season, advanced past the first cut, finishing 76th with 3,632. Three other women, Carolyn Dorin-Ballard (N. Richland Hills, Texas), Liz Johnson (Cheektowaga, N.Y.) and Olivia Sandham (Wichita, Kan.) also made the first cut.
Earning the final spot in tomorrow’s round was John Kreyer Jr. (Fridley, Minn.) who finished 123rd with 3,537, just two pins ahead of PBA Hall of Famer Johnny Petraglia (Manalapan, N.J.).
Friday’s final round of qualifying gets underway at 9 a.m. EST. The first of three round robin sessions gets underway Friday evening at 6 p.m.
The top four after match play will bowl for the $100,000 top prize and three-season exemption live on ESPN Sunday at Noon EST at Brunswick Zone Carolier.
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