LAS VEGAS – Mike Fagan of Dallas continued to build his Professional Bowlers Association Player of the Year credentials, averaging 265 while racing into a 239-pin lead after the first nine qualifying games in the PBA Tournament of Champions Round of 36 Thursday at Red Rock Lanes.
Fagan rolled games of 238, 299, 268, 258, 299, 201, 290, 269 and 264 for a total of 2,386 pins.
Fagan, who had won only two titles in nine previous seasons as a PBA Tour player, is seeking his third title of the 2011-12 season, including his second major championship after winning the United States Bowling Congress Masters in January. He also finished second in the U.S. Open, another major, losing the title to Pete Weber by one pin in February, and the 31-year-old Long Island, N.Y., native won the Kuwait International Open for his second PBA title of the season in March.
“I just felt comfortable today,” Fagan said. “My tempo’s good, my speed control is good, my ball reaction is good. It’s probably something that’s never happened to me like this before.
“Things are just clicking this year,” he added. “I’m getting smarter with equipment, adjusting faster. The difference between me and top players last year was probably one shot a game, and I’m fixing that.
“I know things aren’t over,” he continued. “I’m just going to try to keep doing the same things. I’ve learned in tournaments like this, when you have a good shot, you’d better take advantage because it might not be there the next round.”
Trailing Fagan was Australian two-handed star Jason Belmonte, who had won three titles this season. Belmonte had 2,147 pins for nine games. Third was defending champion Mika Koivuniemi, who snuck into the Round of 36 Thursday night, claiming his spot by a single pin in a four-player roll-off for the 25th spot in the Elite Field.
Competition for the TOC title and the $80,000 first prize continues Thursday night with nine more qualifying games. After 18 games, the field will be cut to the top 18 who will advance to two nine-game rounds of head-to-head match play on Friday. The top four players after 36 games of qualifying and match play will advance to the ESPN stepladder finals Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
Bowling fans can follow Round of 36 progress through the PBA’s exclusive coverage on Xtra Frame, the PBA’s online bowling channel; through live scoring on pba.com, and through the Professional Bowlers Association on Facebook and Twitter. Subscriptions to Xtra Frame are available on the pba.com home page.
PBA TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
Red Rock Lanes, Las Vegas, Thursday
ROUND OF 36 STANDINGS (after 9 of 18 games; top 18 advance to Round of 36 match play finals on Friday):
1, Mike Fagan, Dallas, 2,386.
2, Jason Belmonte, Australia, 2,147.
3, Mika Koivuniemi, Finland, 2,121.
4, Osku Palermaa, Finland, 2,116.
5, Eddie VanDaniker Jr., Essex, Md., 2,113.
6, Tony Reyes, San Bruno, Calif., 2,079.
7 (tie), Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., and Tom Daugherty, Wesley Chapel, Fla., 2,078.
9, Mike DeVaney, Hemet, Calif., 2,058.
10, Chris Loschetter, Avon, Ohio, 2,044.
11, Robert Smith, Los Angeles, 2,043.
12, Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo., 2,041.
13, Rhino Page, Dade City, Fla., 2,019.
14, Ryan Shafer, Horseheads, N.Y., 2,011.
15, Mitch Beasley, Clarksville, Tenn., 2,007.
16 (tie), Eugene McCune, Munster, Ind., and Andres Gomez, Colombia, 2,004.
18, Ryan Ciminelli, Cheektowaga, N.Y., 1,997.
19, Todd Book, Wapakoneta, Ohio, 1,990.
20, Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas, 1,987.
21, Nathan Bohr, Wichita, Kan., 1,947.
22, Mike Dias, Lafayette, Colo., 1,946.
23, Dave Wodka, Henderson, Nev., 1,945.
24, Amleto Monacelli, Venezuela, 1,935.
25, Tom Hess, Urbandale, Iowa, 1,923.
26, Bill O'Neill, Southampton, Pa., 1,919.
27, Stuart Williams, England, 1,901.
28, Dan MacLelland, Canada, 1,899.
29, Parker Bohn III, Jackson, N.J., 1,897.
30, Chris Warren, Grants Pass, Ore., 1,883.
31, Bryon Smith, Roseburg, Ore., 1,882.
32, Tom Smallwood, Saginaw, Mich., 1,860.
33, Dom Barrett, England, 1,837.
34, Michael Machuga, Erie, Pa., 1,830.
35, Scott Newell, Deland, Fla., 1,805.
36, Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., 1,791.
300 Game: Osku Palermaa.