NORTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. – After a one-year absence, the 68th Lumber Liquidators U.S. Open will return to Brunswick Zone Carolier in North Brunswick, N.J., Feb. 21-27, with the addition of a unique three-day schedule of live television coverage, an $80,000 guaranteed first prize and maybe a decisive role in the 2010-11 PBA Player of the Year race.
The fourth and final major championship on the 2010-11 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour schedule, the U.S. Open is considered by many to be the most challenging title in all of bowling to win. It is an extreme test of bowling skill, patience and perseverance. What makes the U.S. Open special is that non-professionals, men or women, international and domestic, are invited to compete against the world’s top professionals on difficult lane conditions that place a high premium on accuracy and precise shot-making.
Heading into the U.S. Open, Mika Koivuniemi of Hartland, Mich., is the odds-on favorite to win Player of the Year after winning the $1 million PBA Tournament of Champions in Las Vegas on Jan. 22 to go along with a sixth-place finish in the PBA World Championship and a third-place finish Sunday in the Bayer United States Bowling Congress Masters. The 43-year-old native of Finland was PBA Player of the Year for the 2003-04 season.
Koivuniemi’s closest challenger is his close friend and tour roommate, Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, who won the PBA World Championship, finished fifth in the Tournament of Champions and tied for ninth in the Masters (thanks to an 804-698 loss to Koivuniemi that bounced him out of the double-elimination match play tournament). Barnes was Player of the Year for the 2007-08 season.
Chasing Koivuniemi and Barnes is defending U.S. Open champion Bill O’Neill of Southampton, Pa., who won the Pepsi Viper Championship, finished second in the PBA World Championship and ninth in the Tournament of Champions. O’Neill advanced to the 64-player match play field in the Bayer USBC Masters, but was eliminated quickly with two losses. A win the season’s final major championship could put him back into the race.
There are a lot of other players who hope to make a statement in North Brunswick, including Kelly Kulick of nearby Union, N.J., who became the PBA Tour’s first woman champion when she won the 2010 PBA Tournament of Champions, and Mike Scroggins of Amarillo, Texas, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Brunswick Zone-Carolier. Kulick, who earned the right to bowl on the PBA Tour this season as an exempt player after her Tournament of Champions victory, is coming into the U.S. Open after a 29th place finish among 256 competitors in last week’s USBC Masters in Reno, Nev.
In addition to Scroggins, other U.S. Open champions who won at Carolier include Barnes (2005), Tommy Jones (2006), Pete Weber (2007) and Norm Duke (2008). Prior to moving to Indianapolis for the 2010 event, Carolier had hosted five consecutive U.S. Opens between 2005 and 2009. Weber will be trying for a record fifth U.S. Open title.
Also at stake in North Brunswick will be competition points affecting the end-of-season Dick Weber PBA Playoffs March 8-14 in Indianapolis and the inaugural World Tenpin Bowling Association World Bowling Tour Finals next fall in Las Vegas.
For the PBA Playoffs, players are competing for points that will determine the top 72 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour players who will qualify for the event as well as how many “bye” rounds the points leaders can earn. As far as the World Bowling Tour Finals is concerned, the U.S. Open is one of seven international tournaments awarding qualifying points toward that event. The international connection is expected to attract some of the world’s premier men and women players to New Jersey.
Unique to the 2011 event will be three days of live television coverage, including an expanded six-player stepladder final, with two matches airing live on ESPN2 on Saturday, Feb. 26, at 10 p.m. Eastern. Saturday’s winner will advance to the four-player stepladder final field for Sunday’s ESPN telecast at 3 p.m. where the winner of the $80,000 top prize will be decided.
The first telecast will provide live coverage of several matches during the opening round of match play on Friday, Feb. 25, at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.
Saturday’s telecast will feature the No. 6 qualifier bowling the No. 5 qualifier. The winner will then meet the No. 4 qualifier to complete the one-hour show.
The 68th U.S. Open will begin with 18 qualifying games for all players. The top 25 percent of the field will advance to an eight-game cashers’ round, and the top 24 will then bowl three eight-game match play rounds to determine the six finalists.
Bowling fans will be able to follow the U.S. Open from start to finish on pba.com’s Xtra Frame video streaming service. More than 70 hours of live coverage of U.S. Open qualifying and match play will be aired on Xtra Frame. For subscription information, visit pba.com and click on the Xtra Frame logo.
68TH LUMBER LIQUIDATORS U.S. OPEN SCHEDULE
Brunswick Zone Carolier, North Brunswick, N.J., Feb. 21-27 (all times are Eastern)
Monday, Feb. 21
8 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. - Practice squads
4 and 7 p.m. – Pro-Am squads
Tuesday, Feb. 22
8 a.m. - A Squad qualifying (6 games)
Noon - B Squad qualifying (6 games)
6 p.m. - C Squad qualifying (6 games)
Wednesday, Feb. 23
8 a.m. - B Squad qualifying (6 games)
Noon - C Squad qualifying (6 games)
6 p.m. - A Squad qualifying (6 games)
Thursday, Feb. 24
8 a.m. - C Squad qualifying (6 games)
Noon - A Squad qualifying (6 games)
6 p.m. - B Squad qualifying (6 games)
Top 25 percent of field advances to Cashers’ Round
Friday, Feb. 25
8 a.m. – Cashers’ Round (8 games)
Top 24 advance to match play
3 p.m. - Match Play Round 1 (6 games)
6 p.m. – Live ESPN2 coverage, final two games of Round 1 matches
Saturday, Feb. 26
8 a.m. - Match Play Round 2 (8 games)
1:30 p.m. - Match Play Round 3 (8 games; top six advance to stepladder finals)
10 p.m. – Live ESPN2 coverage
Match One: No. 6 qualifier vs. No. 5 qualifier
Match Two: Winner of Match One vs. No. 4 qualifier
Sunday, Feb. 27
3 p.m. – Live ESPN stepladder finals
Match Three: Winner of Saturday’s Match Two vs. No. 3 qualifier
Semifinal: Winner of Match Three vs. No. 2 qualifier
Championship: Winner of Semifinal Match vs. No. 1 qualifier