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LINCOLN, Neb. – Bowling on what he thought was the most scorable of the qualifying patterns this week, AJ Johnson knew it was imperative to get off to a strong start at the U.S. Open.
Johnson, who is seeking his first career PBA Tour title, did just that on Tuesday at Sun Valley Lanes as he took the opening-round lead after eight games with 1,855 (+285), a 235.63 average.
The field competed on 39-foot pattern in the first round and will take on a new pattern each day of qualifying this week. All 108 players return for Wednesday’s second round of qualifying starting at 8 a.m. Eastern live on FloBowling.
“I knew this pattern was probably going to be a little more scorable than the other ones, so I knew I wanted to get off to a good start,” Johnson said. “It’s always nice to get off to a good start at the U.S. Open.”
Johnson started his day with games of 241, 203, 279 and 226 and finished the back half of the block with 238, 242, 177 and 279 on the first squad of the day. His score held up as the players on the next two squads were unable to catch him.
“It’s a long format, one of the longest formats we have out here on tour,” Johnson said. “I like this tournament because of that but I just wanted to get off to a good start so I have a clear picture going forward and not trying to make everything up at the end.”
To make the show this week, players will have to survive 56 games of qualifying, cashers round and match play. The stepladder finals will take place Sunday.
Kris Prather narrowly missed taking the lead on the final squad of the night, settling into second place with 1,878 (+278). The 2020 PBA Tournament of Champions winner started slow with games of 192, 205 and 208 and then got it going with 234, 300, 255, 247 and 237.
Anthony Simonsen, who is crossing with Johnson this week, also had a big opening round, finishing in third place with 1,875 (+275). Simonsen shot the first 300 of the event in Game 3 and followed it up with 279 in Game 4 to give his total a big boost.
Defending U.S. Open champion Francois Lavoie is in fourth place with 1,862 (+262), while Brad Miller finished the day fifth with 1,861 (+261).