U.S. Open To Test Skill, Versatility Starting Friday

With potential PBA Player of the Year implications and a challenging test of versatility and skill, the U.S. Open will be the last chance for players to earn a PBA Tour major title this season.

This year’s U.S. Open begins with the first round of qualifying on Friday at Victory Lanes in Mooresville, North Carolina, and will be broadcast live on FloBowling.

Dom Barrett will be back to defend his title, while Jason Belmonte will look to hold off Jakob Butturff in the PBA Player of the Year race.

Here are a few nuggets to get you ready for the season’s final major:

Barrett looks to repeat gutsy performance

Barrett hopes to recapture some of last year’s magic this time around as he enters the U.S. Open as the defending champion.

He put on a gutsy display last year, using four bowling balls as he climbed the ladder to win the U.S. Open. In the title match, he took down top seed Butturff, 207-206.

"One of my favorite parts of that win was the whole game plan I had with my ball reps," Barrett said in a USBC release. "How I was going to break down that pair, knowing how quickly the conditions change - especially with the TV lights in that type of setting. I made three or four ball changes. Looking back at it, it was a lot of fun for me. I bowled well all week, got to the finals and executed the game plan really well."

Since winning the U.S. Open last October, Barrett has yet to find his way to the winner’s circle again. His best finish so far in 2019 was a fourth-place performance at the PBA Oklahoma Open in early January.

Barrett’s only other stepladder finals appearance this season was fifth at the DHC PBA Japan Invitational. He’s had a handful of other top 10 finishes but has yet to break through in 2019. He’ll look to turn his season around this week.

"I haven't had the best season this year," Barrett said in the USBC release. "I wanted to compete for a few more titles. But, I've been bowling a lot leading into this event. Nothing really ever prepares you for the U.S. Open and the sort of test it's going to be, so I've just been bowling as much as I can and hope to feel good physically and bowl well when it's time."

Will Butturff finally break through?

The past two years Butturff has put on a masterful display in qualifying and match play at the U.S. Open.

In 2017, he led the event by 617 pins heading into the stepladder finals only to lose to fellow lefty Rhino Page, 256-222.

The following year in 2018, Butturff picked up where he left off, leading the field by 552 pins to earn the top seed for the stepladder. Once again, he lost in the title match, falling to Barrett by a pin.

It’s interesting to note that Butturff’s success at the U.S. Open and the USBC Masters, which he won earlier this year, have come at events conducted by USBC. At those events, USBC uses Kegel lane machines, Kegel oil and has a different person developing patterns than the PBA Tour.

Could that be a magic combination for Butturff once again? We’ll find out in the coming days.

POY, ROY races to become clearer

As the final major event this season, the U.S. Open represents the last big push for PBA Player of the Year and PBA Rookie of the Year.

It should come as no surprise that Belmonte is the man to beat after his stellar start to the 2019 season. Belmonte has won two majors – the PBA Tournament of Champions and the PBA World Championship – to go along with two standard titles – the PBA Chameleon Championship and DHC PBA Japan Invitational.

Belmonte is the only player with four titles so far this season and leads the tour in points with 33,740.

Butturff could make this year’s vote extremely interesting if we were to win the U.S. Open to equal Belmonte’s four titles. A U.S. Open win would also give Butturff two majors as he won the USBC Masters. He also won the PBA Oklahoma Open and the PBA Lubbock Sports Shootout.

Other than those two, it’s difficult to see a path to Player of the Year for anyone else. Anthony Simonsen might be the only other one as he has two titles – the PBA Players Championship (a major) and the PBA Bear Open. Other than Butturff and Belmonte, Simonsen is the only other player to win a major this season.

As for the PBA Rookie of the Year race, Mykel Holliman continues to be the odds-on favorite based on his impressive second-place showing at the USBC Masters.

Holliman ranks 36th overall in points this season with 8,390 and the next closest rookie is Kenneth Ryan in 57th place with 4,760. Greg Young Jr. had the best overall performance on the FloBowling PBA Summer Tour, making two shows, but sits in 65th in points.

Patrick Hanrahan, Jake Rollins and Mike Coffey are all also in the mix for top rookie honors. If any of the players in contention other than Holliman can make the U.S. Open show, it should make for an interesting vote.

Format and lane conditions

The U.S. Open is a long duration event that favors players who are versatile and can be consistent over a long number of games.

The 144-player field will be challenged by three eight-game rounds of qualifying, all on different patterns, before the field is cut to the top 36 players.

The advancing players will then bowl eight more games of qualifying to determine the 24 match-play finalists. Those players will bowl 24 games of round robin match play with the top five making the show. The Round of 36, match play and stepladder finals will be contested on a fourth lane condition.

Per the rules of the event, the lane conditions will be posted no later than the start of the practice session on Thursday morning. Last year, the patterns were 37 feet, 40 feet, 47 feet and 43 feet.

How to watch

All qualifying and match play rounds will be broadcast live on FloBowling. The stepladder finals will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network.

What the schedule looks like

Here’s the schedule for the U.S. Open. All times listed are Eastern.

Wednesday, Oct. 23
9 a.m. - PTQ

Friday, Oct. 25
8 a.m. – Qualifying Round 1, Squad A (eight games)
1 p.m. – Qualifying Round 1, Squad B (eight games)
6 p.m. – Qualifying Round 1, Squad C (eight games)

Saturday, Oct. 26
8 a.m. – Qualifying Round 2, Squad B (eight games)
1 p.m. – Qualifying Round 2, Squad C (eight games)
6 p.m. – Qualifying Round 2, Squad A (eight games)

Sunday, Oct. 27
8 a.m. – Qualifying Round 3, Squad C (eight games)
1 p.m. – Qualifying Round 3, Squad A (eight games)
6 p.m. – Qualifying Round 3, Squad B (eight games)

Monday, Oct. 28
10 a.m. – Round of 36 (eight games)
5 p.m. – Match Play Round 1 (eight games)

Tuesday, Oct. 29
10 a.m. – Match Play Round 2 (eight games)
5 p.m. – Match Play Round 3 (eight games)

Wednesday, Oct. 30

8 p.m. – Stepladder Finals (top five) – Broadcast live on CBS Sports Network

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