February 13, 2008 19:00
After holding the lead in the 2007-08 PBA Player of the Year point race for 13 weeks, six-time PBA Player of the Year Walter Ray Williams Jr. was finally passed last week by Chris Barnes.
Williams is determined to take the lead back this week, averaging 252.36 with a 3,533 14-game pinfall Thursday to earn the top seed for match play in the 2008 Pepsi Championship at Thunder-Alley.
At 48 years old, Williams is looking to win his record-breaking seventh PBA Player of the Year award. He won two titles and made five championship round appearances in the first half of the season but has not made the finals since December. He led the field by 140 pins Thursday to take the lead heading into round robin match play Friday where all pins from the Round of 64 carry over.
“I’m bowing great and having a great season, but I did tell my wife I’m feeling inspired because Mr. Barnes has been bowling so well and he won last week. I need to get my butt in gear,” Williams said of Barnes, who has made four consecutive championship rounds. “Today was rather amazing. The carry here is unbelievable. I actually missed the pocket a lot considering my score. That’s why the scores are so high. The carry here is just unbelievable.”
Williams will look to improve on his recent performance in the round robin format where he has not won enough matches to make the finals. Bowlers earn 30 bonus pins for each win and 15 for each tie in addition to their total pinfall from each game.
“My match game record lately in this format has been pathetic and it cost me a TV show a couple weeks ago,” Williams (Ocala, Fla.) said. “Hopefully I can knock a lot of pins down and win some matches. I’d like to hopefully be the No. 1 seed and win one match Sunday and win the title, but we’re not even halfway through the tournament. With the bonus pins, those 18 games are way more important than today’s 14 games. You can make up a lot of ground or lose a lot depending on whether you win your matches.”
In second behind Williams is Mike Machuga, who was a collegiate All-American at the nearby University of Nebraska and captured his lone Denny’s PBA Tour title in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 2005. Machuga (Erie, Pa.) finished with 3,393 and will look to make his first championship round appearance of the season.
Two of the Tour’s young stars – 27-year-old Michael Fagan (Patchogue, N.Y.) and 26-year old Bill O’Neill (Levittown, Pa.) – sit third and fourth, respectively. Fagan won his first Denny’s PBA Tour title three weeks ago when he teamed up with Danny Wiseman to win the PBA Exempt Doubles Classic. O’Neill and his partner, Mike Scroggins, finished third in that event in O’Neill’s quest to win his first title. Scroggins sits fourth after Thursday’s play.
Norm Duke, a 26-time titlist also looking to break through with his first finals appearance of the season, finished ninth with 3,292. Duke has been battling injuries all season and came into the week 54th in the PBA World Point Rankings, 15 spots out of the cut for an exemption for the 2008-09 season.
Barnes, who will look to tie a Tour record with is fifth consecutive TV appearance, is 11th, less than 40 pins out of the cut for the top five. Barnes will look to join Williams as the only bowlers in history to make five consecutive championship rounds.
The top 32 advance to round robin match play on Friday which gets underway at 11 a.m. CST with the first of two nine-game blocks. The top 16 advance to the second nine-game block Friday at 6 p.m. after which the field will be cut to the top five for Sunday’s finals.
The live ESPN-televised finals take place Sunday, Feb. 17 at 11:30 a.m. CST. The winner will take home $25,000 and an exemption for the 2008-09 season.
300 games - Walter Ray Williams Jr., Bill O'Neill, Brian Himmler, Mike Machuga, Sean Rash, Jason Wojnar, Brad Angelo.
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