By Donnie Layman
Andy Morton is taking a week off from his usual blogging duties, so I will be pinch-hitting for this special post-U.S. Open edition.
All the prestige of winning a major? The three year tour exemption that it comes with? The first place prize? Why is it that so many people feel that this is the most important of all the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour events? Just look at some of the names that have won this event: Don Johnson, Johnny Petraglia, Nelson Burton Jr., 3-time winner Dave Husted, Mark Roth, Marshall Holman, Mike Aulby, 4-time winner Pete Weber, Walter Ray Williams, Jr., Chris Barnes....the list of current and/or future Hall of Famers is staggering. What's also a bit staggering is that since its inception in 1971 only 6 left handers have won this coveted title. Mike Scroggins' victory last year marked the first time in 2 entire decades a lefty won. Even the legendary Earl Anthony never won this tournament! (Something which I was actually shocked to learn...)
I think the reason the champions list is filled with such quality players is because this is the single most grueling and most challenging event on the schedule each year. The flat, 40 ft. oil pattern that this tournament uses places a very high premium on the ability to make quality shots, on keeping the ball in play, and on making those all too important spares. Every pin you get counts in this tournament, because you never know when you'll hit a pair that baffles even the most experienced of players. This tournament puts an emphasis on all of the "classic" bowling skills that some people just don't appreciate when done at the level it takes to be the best. In addition, the 18 games of qualifying, the 9 game cashers round, and 24 games of match play make for a lot of opportunities to make up a lot of ground if you haven't buried yourself too deeply in minus column.
You had a different leader at the end of each day of qualifying. After taking a huge lead after the 3rd round, Aussie sensation Jason Belmonte ended up being run down and run off of Survivor Island altogether (giving credit where credit is due, Jason suffered a hamstring injury that he continued to fight all the way down to the exciting position round). You had a position round which saw three PBA Hall of Famers in Pete Weber, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Norm Duke and two potential Hall of Famers in the aforementioned Belmonte and Jason Couch all vying for the 4th and final TV spot (as Jason Thomas already wrote in his recap, if you haven't signed up for Xtra Frame you are REALLY missing out).
It turned out to be a huge performance in the 10th frame by Couch, as well as an unexpected and poorly timed misfire by the all time title leader Walter Ray as he needed only 7 pins to secure the win and the all important 30 bonus pins and looked to have just gotten a little soft with his speed and only got six on the fill. That left him tied for the match with Duke and not giving him enough bonus pins to move ahead of Couch. It was absolutely riveting, and action that any bowling fan would want to be a part of.
One of the other fun topics of the week is watching to see who was going to win the title of "Captain Red." Just what is Captain Red? Captain Red is a dubious title, (similar to being dubbed Mr. Irrelevant at the NFL Draft) that goes to the bowler that completes all qualifying games (no DNF's) with the highest total under par (with 200 being par). Over the first two days, local Indianapolis resident Sean Couse had been holding that spot down after being -793 (!) after the first 12 games of qualifying. Apparently he was motivated enough to want to climb his way out of the cellar and eventually the 2010 US Open Captain Red winner was Anthony Dompe of Georgetown, Ill. Mr. Dompe knocked down 2498 pins over 18 games, which was -1102 below the 200 "mendoza line" for a whopping 138.78 average. Someone should be kind enough to purchase this guy his favorite adult beverage, because that has to feel like he just got out of the cage with UFC Heavyweight Champ Brock Lesnar.
The Greek Church (Usually the Big Four, but why not add an extra pin for U.S. Open week?) 5 topics for "open" discussion (Get it? "Open"? As in U.S. Open? All right, I'll leave it alone.)
1. Does Mike Scroggins ever get enough credit for how great he really is?
2. Can Bill O'Neill hold off Walter Ray and company for the Chris Schenkel Player of the Year race?
3. Will Jason Belmonte's hamstring stop him from making a run at the Player of the Year race?
4. Can PDW make it to 2nd on the all time titles list before his illustrious career ends?
5. Who else thinks that Tommy Jones is on the brink of returning to his previous dominance?
My Top 10 (You know the drill, most recent tournament finish in parenthesis)
1. Walter Ray Williams (5th) - I think Deadeye truly believes that winning never gets old. Already arguably the greatest bowler that has ever graced the lanes, this 50 year old continues to amaze and is having a stellar season.
2. Chris Barnes (11th) - Now that he's 40, if he ever gets winning on TV to be as regular as him being on TV he'll start raking in the W's at an alarming rate.
3. Bill O'Neill (1st) - After making 7 shows last year with no title to show for it, he's won twice this year with one of those being the most prestigious event on the schedule. He's now in the lead for the Chris Schenkel Player of the Year race, and comes into the Etonic Don Johnson Eliminator with a lot of momentum to finish the season. Wait...what pattern is the Eliminator being contested on? Chameleon? And he won the Chameleon Championship at the WSOB? Uh oh, time to switch my picks up in our Fantasy League.
4. Jason Belmonte (6th) - A somewhat disappointing end to a very strong showing at the US Open due to a hamstring injury. Regardless of what one thinks of his grooming habits, or the two-handed delivery, this Aussie is for real and is going to be around for a very long time.
5. Mike Scroggins (2nd) - Quiet, unassuming, and consistent. He was the first lefty to win the US Open in 20 years last year, and follows that win with a 2nd place finish at this year's Open. He might not be the most electric persona on the lanes, but will sneak up and pass you in the standings without you knowing he was even there.
6. Wes Mallott (31st) - The King of Bowling continues to have a very solid season, and will look to add to that with the Extreme Swing starting up this week.
7. Pete Weber (8th) - After a valiant effort to even make it to match play this week, winning a one game roll off with PJ Haggerty for the 24th and final spot, he continued that run and had a chance going into the final position round to make the TV show. I hope that we get to see PDW win his 35th title this year...and several more hopefully.
8. Rhino Page (52nd) - Not quite the showing I'm sure that he was hoping for this week. I'm sure that he'll be hungry for his 2nd title this season in the upcoming weeks.
9. Tommy Jones (3rd) - TJ has shown in the past that when he has it working, there aren't too many people out there who can beat him. He's having a very strong 2nd half of the season, and is bound to win title number 13 any week now.
10. Mike Fagan (33rd) - Won his first singles title this season, and with as much game as he has is bound to win bunches more and start poking his neck into the Player of the Year races.