INDIANAPOLIS—The pressure couldn't be more intense as the Professional Bowlers Association's final major championship of the 2009-10 gets underway in the 67th Lumber Liquidators U.S. Open at Woodland Bowl Tuesday, heading toward a Sunday conclusion at 12:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
The three previous majors this season have all produced storybook champions: laid-off General Motors assembly line worker Tom Smallwood wins the PBA World Championship in a rags-to-riches story that has captured America's heart; Kelly Kulick breaks a 50-year-old gender barrier, becoming the first woman to not only win a PBA Tour title, but a major championship in the Tournament of Champions, and finally, Walter Ray Williams Jr., the most successful player in PBA Tour history, becomes the second-oldest player ever to win a major when he conquers the USBC Masters at age 50.
This week, after a 14-year absence, the Lumber Liquidators U.S. Open will add another capture to its colorful history in a return to 80-lane Woodland Bowl, a bowling center that has played a prominent role in the sport's colorful history for two decades.
The U.S. Open, considered by many to be the most challenging and most cherished title to win in all of bowling, is an extreme test of bowling skill, patience and perseverance. At the end of the line, the reward for the player who overcomes the demanding U.S. Open lane conditions will be a $60,000 first prize and a three-year PBA Tour exemption.
PBA fans will recall that last year's U.S. Open in North Brunswick, N.J., was the decisive event in the 2008-09 PBA Player of the Year race. While the attention was focused on a battle between top-qualifier Norm Duke and defending Player of the Year Chris Barnes in the stepladder final, Mike Scroggins of Amarillo, Texas, upset the apple cart, defeating both players for his second career major title and handing the Player of the Year crown of Wes Malott.
Whoever wins at Woodland Bowl which has hosted three previous U.S. Opens will add to the tournament's legacy.
Woodland Bowl's first U.S. Open was won by Ron Palombi Jr. who defeated Amleto Monacelli, 269-205, in 1990. Most fans don't remember Pete Weber was nearly perfect in defeating Mark Thayer of nearby Lafayette, Ind., 289-184, for the 1991 title, but everyone who watched certainly remembers the "eagle" trophy crashing to the floor after Weber hoisted it over his head. In 1996, the Men's and Women's U.S. Opens were held side-by-side for the first time ever at Woodland Bowl. The finals were contested before a crowd of 1,600 at Market Square Arena where Dave Husted defeated George Brooks to become the first male to successfully defend his U.S. Open title and become the event's first three-time champion. A rookie on the women's pro tour Liz Johnson won the 1996 Women's U.S. Open.
The next chapter in U.S. Open history begins with 18 qualifying games for all players six games each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The field will then be cut to the top 25 percent for a nine-game "casher's round" on Friday. The top 24 after 27 games will then advance to three round-robin match play rounds Friday night and Saturday.
The top four players will advance to the live ESPN stepladder finals on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern.
The U.S. Open will also have a major impact on the 2009-10 PBA World Points Ranking race with only four tournaments to follow. With "bonus points" at stake because it's a major, the pressure is on players who are battling for the xx exemptions for the 2010-11 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour season.
Scroggins returns as the defending champion. Pete Weber will return to Indianapolis seeking an unprecedented fifth U.S. Open title. Other past U.S. Open champions in the field will be Duke (2008), Tommy Jones (2006), Barnes (2005), Williams (1998 and 2003), Mika Koivuniemi (2002), and Robert Smith (2000).
Bowling fans will be able to watch live-streaming video from the tournament all week on pba.com's Xtra Frame. To subscribe to the exclusive "online bowling channel," visit pba.com and click on the Xtra Frame icon. For non-subscribers, pba.com will provide its standard live scoring coverage at no cost.
67TH LUMBER LIQUIDATORS U.S. OPEN SCHEDULE
Woodland Bowl, Indianapolis, Ind., Feb. 23-28
Tuesday, Feb. 23
8 a.m. - A Squad qualifying (6 games)
Noon - B Squad qualifying (6 games)
6 p.m. - C Squad qualifying (6 games)
Wednesday, Feb. 24