January 23, 2008 19:00
Wes Malott wasn’t even sure he’d be able to compete in this week’s H&R Block Tournament of Champions, but now he’s looking like a good bet to make Sunday’s championship round and win his first career Major title.
Malott overcame a severe blister on his right thumb to shoot 300 and lead the 54-bowler field with a 3,350 14-game pinfall at Red Rock Lanes, taking the top seed into match play in the second of four Majors on the Denny’s PBA Tour.
The three-time titlist who won his third title just two weeks ago, tore open a blister on his bowling hand early in the week during the PBA Exempt Doubles Classic and nearly withdrew from the event. Instead, he continued to bowl because he was paired with fellow Columbia staffer Chris Barnes, and the two advanced to Sunday’s championship round. He'll look to make it two championship rounds on Sunday if he can stay in the top four during the 18 games of round robin.
“I didn’t think I would even be able to finish the doubles event but when I found out I was paired with Chris I did everything I could do to bowl,” Malott (Argyle, Texas) said. “I patched it up and we made it to the show and then I took Wednesday off and didn’t even touch a ball. I got here this morning and bowled really well tonight. The thumb is pretty much healed now but it’s still patched up because I don’t want it to crack again and become a problem.”
Malott averaged 226.29 over the first seven games but came out of the gates in the second block with a perfect game. He finished the round with games of 278 and 258 to take over the lead.
“I hit the pocket a lot this morning and didn’t get rewarded very much so I drilled a Columbia Momentum and was able to get momentum and carry it through the rest of the day,” Malott said. “If I can win a Major here that puts me in good position for Player of the Year. I didn’t think anyone could catch (Walter Ray Williams Jr.) but he’s having a little trouble right now. He’ll figure it out and finish the season strong but I’m definitely going to have to bowl well to even have a chance at that.”
Malott has had close calls in Majors before, finishing third in the 2004 PBA World Championship and second in last season’s 64th U.S. Open. He currently sits fourth in the PBA World Point Rankings and third in the PBA Player of the Year race.
Barnes (Double Oak, Texas), Malott’s teammate for Sunday’s doubles finals, made a late run in the second block to move into second with 3,307. He averaged 239.86 over the final seven games and will look to win his second Tournament of Champions in the last three years.
Eugene McCune (Munster, Ind.) is third with 3,278, PBA Hall of Famer Parker Bohn III (Jackson, N.J.) is fourth with 3,270 and 13-time titlist Randy Pedersen (Clermont, Fla.), the color commentator for the PBA on ESPN, is fifth with 3,261.
Sean Rash (Wichita, Kan.), who won the 2007 United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Masters in October and is looking to become just the fifth bowler to win back-to-back Majors, is sixth with 3,253.
In a field of 54 bowlers with a combined 511 titles and with bowlers ranging in ages from their 60s to their 20s, 24 of the 32 bowlers who advanced to match play are exempt on the Denny’s PBA Tour. Among the non-exempt bowlers advancing were PBA Hall of Famers and PBA Senior Tour bowlers David Ozio, Steve Cook and Johnny Petraglia. Ozio finished 13th and Cook 24th, while Petraglia finished 32nd and earned the final spot in match play by just one pin over 2006-07 PBA Player of the Year Doug Kent despite a 171 in the final game.
The top 32 advanced to round robin match play Friday which features two nine-game blocks. The field will be cut to the top 16 after the first nine games, with the top four advancing to Sunday’s live ESPN-televised championship round.
The event features the 39 most recent champions on the Denny’s PBA Tour, two winners from major events on both the PBA Senior Tour and PBA Regional Tour and is filled up to 54 by past Tournament of Champions winners and PBA Hall of Famers, based on most recent Denny’s PBA Tour win.
The final four will compete for the $50,000 top prize and a two-year Denny’s PBA Tour exemption on Sunday, Jan. 27 at 12:30 p.m. EST live on ESPN.
300 games (5) - Randy Pedersen, Wes Malott, Parker Bohn, Brian Voss, Pete Weber.
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