LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Bill O’Neill of Southampton, Pa., who won his third career Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour title in the Pepsi Viper Championship in the 2010 PBA World Series of Bowling in October, has selected the Viper lane condition for the 2011 PBA World Championship finals as the PBA Tour launches the live television portion of its schedule Jan. 14-16 at South Point Bowling Center.
The first-ever three-day, eight-player stepladder finals will air on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 14-16, on ESPN2 and ESPN. O’Neill, the top qualifier after 60 World Series games bowled on five different PBA lane conditions, earned the right to select which lane condition would be used for the championship finals and to no one’s surprise, he selected the lane condition he dominated in winning four matches to win the Viper title.
The Viper pattern is considered a medium to high-scoring condition that involves oiling the lane to a distance of 37 feet, and allows for multiple angles of attack for those who can successfully read the changes in conditions as competitors break down the original application of oil.
In winning the Pepsi Viper Championship, O’Neill averaged 242.75 in easily defeating PBA Hall of Famer Amleto Monacelli, Mike DeVaney, Tommy Jones and Andres Gomez. In all four matches, O’Neill rarely missed the pocket while all four of his opponents struggled.
O’Neill also knew that none of the other seven PBA World Championship finalists – No. 8 Jason Belmonte, Australia; No. 7 Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas; No. 6 Michael Haugen Jr., Carefree, Ariz.; No. 5 Mika Koivuniemi, Hartland, Mich.; No. 4 Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas; No. 3 Osku Palermaa, Finland, and No. 2 Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill. - made it to the Viper championship round.
“I didn’t want to bowl on the Cheetah pattern for a major title,” O’Neill said in explaining his lane pattern choice. “The Cheetah condition is too easy. I don’t want to get into a shootout. I didn’t want to bowl on the Shark because that pattern plays to the advantage of Sean (Rash) and Osku (Palermaa), who have higher rev rates than I do.
“I made the show on the Scorpion pattern, but I didn’t have a good look,” O’Neill continued. “And I won my first title on the Chameleon a year ago in Detroit, but on the Viper, I bowled four games and had a really good ball reaction. I bowled four matches on TV and we’ll be bowling on the same pair of lanes for the World Championship finals, so I’ll take my chances.”
The PBA World Championship finals will be the first ever to include eight players and air over a span of three days. The finals will begin at 2 p.m. Pacific on ESPN2 on Friday, Jan. 14, when the No. 8 World Series qualifier (Belmonte) bowls a one-game match against the No. 7 qualifier (Malott). The winner will then meet No. 6 Haugen.
Friday’s winner will advance to Saturday’s 6 p.m. Pacific telecast, also on ESPN2, for a one-game match against No. 5 qualifier Koivuniemi. That winner will meet No. 4 Barnes.
Saturday’s winner moves into the championship field on the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour’s traditional home, ESPN, for the 10 a.m. Pacific finals on Sunday. The first match will involve Saturday’s survivor against No. 3 qualifier Palermaa. Next up will be the semifinal match against Rash. O’Neill will await the final survivor in a showdown for the $50,000 first prize and the season’s first major title.
O’Neill has experienced the waiting game before. He was a finalist in the 2009 PBA World Championship where he also had to wait three months between qualifying in suburban Detroit and the live finals in December in Wichita, Kan.
“I spent the whole three months between qualifying and bowling in the finals last year wondering what it would be like to win,” he said, “and it kinda negatively impacted me. I put too much pressure on myself.”
In Wichita, O’Neill lost his semifinal round match to eventual champion Tom Smallwood of Saginaw, Mich., 211-159.
“This time, I’m going to be more relaxed and just do what I’m going to do,” O’Neill said. “I’ve got one game to bowl and I’m going to try to make every shot count. I’m going to try not to get too worked up, or think too far ahead or worry about winning.”
Tickets for the PBA World Championship television shows are available at South Point Bowling Center or online at pba.com. A three-day television pass is $50; tickets for the three individuals shows are $20 each.
2011 PBA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS
South Point Bowling Center, Las Vegas, Nev., Jan. 14-16 (all times Pacific)
FRIDAY, JAN. 14 (ESPN2)
2 p.m. – PBA World Championship, Stepladder Round One (No. 8 Jason Belmonte, Australia, vs. No. 7 Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas; winner bowls No. 6 Michael Haugen Jr., Carefree, Ariz.)
SATURDAY, JAN. 15 (ESPN2)
6 p.m. – PBA World Championship, Stepladder Round Two (Friday winner vs. No. 5 Mika Koivuniemi, Hartland, Mich.; winner bowls No. 4 Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas)
SUNDAY, JAN. 16 (ESPN)
10 a.m. – PBA World Championship (Saturday winner vs. No. 3 Osku Palermaa, Finland; winner bowls No. 2 Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill.; winner bowls No. 1 Bill O’Neill, Southampton, Pa., for title)