COLUMBUS, Ohio – Four players held the lead at one point during the opening round of match play Thursday at the 2019 PBA Players Championship but by the end of the block, Jason Belmonte had extended his lead on the field.
Belmonte, who was tied with Brad Miller for the lead heading into match play, went 5-3 in eight matches and has a total of 6,124, a 229.77 average, at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl. He now leads the field by 127 pins and is inside the top five by nearly 300 pins.
The second round of match play gets underway at 11 a.m. Eastern on Friday with the final round taking place at 6 p.m. Eastern. Both rounds will be broadcast live on FloBowling.
Belmonte opened match play with a 241-186 loss to Miller and plummeted from first to sixth after one game. He lost his next match 279-205 to Tom Smallwood before starting to rebound.
"I got off to a bad start because I was playing the lanes the way I wanted to play them and not the way the conditions dictated I should play them," Belmonte said. "I was having trouble getting the big games down the stretch, but I was able to get a run at the end of the round.”
In the final two games, Belmonte pulled away from the field with a 289-175 victory over Thomas Larsen and a 249-191 win against Sean Rash to open up his biggest lead of the tournament.
"Generally, the lanes are playing tight down lane and there's not enough friction to get a consistent roll into the pocket," said Belmonte, who has 10 career major titles. "You just have to learn from your experience throughout the tournament and pull out whatever tricks you can to get the ball to the pocket consistently."
At one point during Thursday evening’s round, Miller, Belmonte, Chris Barnes and Smallwood all led and all five remained in the top five after 26 games.
Smallwood, the defending champion, sits in second place after posting a 6-2 record with a total of 5,997, his only losses coming against Zach Wilkins and Tom Daugherty.
One player who made a massive move in match play was Anthony Simonsen. Entering the first eight games of match play, Simsonsen was in 21st place, but he made a huge run, going 6-1-1 in matches and totaling 5,959.
Barnes also made a big jump, going from 12th place to start match play up to fourth with a 7-1 record and totaling 5,905.
One player who had a dramatic drop in the standings was Kyle Troup, who was fifth after qualifying but dropped to 14th place with 5,758. Troup battled a sharp pain in the palm of his right bowling hand that caused him discomfort and caused him to lose significant ground on the field.