It’s already been a tough stretch of five consecutive weeks to open the 2020 PBA Tour season, but the challenge becomes even more intense as the players head to Lincoln, Nebraska, for the U.S. Open.
The players who make the show this week will have bowled at least 56 games of qualifying and match play. If a player advances through the PTQ, that number goes up to 64 games.
It’s going to be a tough mental and physical challenge and you’ll be able to watch all the action live on FloBowling from Sun Valley Lanes.
Don't forget, if you subscribe to FloBowling to watch the U.S. Open, you'll also be able to watch the upcoming PBA Indianapolis Open, PBA Doubles Championship, World Series of Bowling, USBC Masters and our entire PBA50 and PBA Summer Tour schedule.
Here are a few key points to get you ready for the U.S. Open:
Lavoie looks for third U.S. Open
In his career, Francois Lavoie has won four PBA Tour titles. Two of them are U.S. Opens.
The defending champion will look to make it three against a smaller field this week and continue to etch his name deeper into the storied history of the U.S. Open.
Last year’s U.S. Open took place in October and capped off what was a mostly disappointing season for Lavoie. This year, he’s cashed in just two of five events but is coming off his best finish of the season at the PBA Players Championship where he ended up seventh.
For Lavoie, it was all about getting back to the basics last year.
“I struggled physically and mentally at the wrong time right in the heart of the PBA season,” Lavoie said after winning in October. “With so many different people, the ball reps here on tour, Team Canada coaches, friends, we figured out what I needed to do. We came to the conclusion that I just needed to go back to basics and do what I do. It was a hard lesson to learn.”
Keeping things simple and getting back to the basics seems like the perfect strategy for the U.S. Open, and if Lavoie can get into that mindset again, he may well bring home a third green jacket.
Field shrinks to 108 bowlers
This year’s event will feature less competitors, which should help the event run on time and help keep up the integrity of the patterns longer.
After having 144 players last year with four on a pair for qualifying, the field has been limited to 108 players this year. That will allow for just three players per pair, vastly speeding up qualifying squads.
Going to a 32-lane center meant USBC had to make some sort of adjustment for 2020 because there simply were not enough lanes to facilitate competition pairs and tolerable practice range pairs, which USBC introduced in 2017.
Players only receive one ball of practice on each of their starting lanes before starting competition. They receive 30 minutes of warm up on practice range pairs.
Even with limiting the qualifying squads to three on a pair, there will only be six lanes available for the practice range. That means each pair will have an average of 12 bowlers for the warm-up sessions, significantly more than previous years.
In 2017 and 2018 there were an average of 6.8 players per pair for warm-up pairs, while in 2019 the average was eight per pair. Had USBC not limited the field to 108 players, there would have been an untenable 16 players per pair for warm-ups.
The 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 108-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 Tuesday morning. Last year, the patterns were 45 feet, 41 feet, 37 feet and 40 feet.
How to watch
Every round of qualifying and match play will be broadcast live on FloBowling. The stepladder finals on Sunday will take place at 1 p.m. Eastern live on your local FOX affiliate (United States) or on FloBowling (international).
What the schedule looks like
Here’s the schedule for this event. All times listed are Eastern.
Sunday, Feb. 16
11 a.m. – PTQ
Tuesday, Feb. 18
9 a.m. – Qualifying Round 1, Squad A (eight games)
2 p.m. – Qualifying Round 1, Squad B (eight games)
7 p.m. – Qualifying Round 1, Squad C (eight games)
Wednesday, Feb. 19
9 a.m. – Qualifying Round 2, Squad B (eight games)
2 p.m. – Qualifying Round 2, Squad C (eight games)
7 p.m. – Qualifying Round 2, Squad A (eight games)
Thursday, Feb. 20
9 a.m. – Qualifying Round 3, Squad C (eight games)
2 p.m. – Qualifying Round 3, Squad A (eight games)
7 p.m. – Qualifying Round 3, Squad B (eight games)
Friday, Feb. 21
11 a.m. – Cashers Round (eight games)
6 p.m. – Match Play Round 1 (eight games)
Saturday, Feb. 22
11 a.m. – Match Play Round 2 (eight games)
6 p.m. – Match Play Round 3 (eight games)
Sunday, Feb. 23
1 p.m. – Stepladder Finals* (top five)
* - FloBowling live broadcast only for audiences outside the United States. The replay of the finals will be available for all audiences seven days after it airs live.