With the huge "but" that this is coming solely off of looking at the lane pattern numbers and not actually bowling on it, I'd predict the 2012 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships will be the lowest scoring in years — perhaps since the last time the tournament was in Baton Rouge in 2005.
The pattern was revealed in a much anticipated live webcast on BowlTV from the Baton Rouge River Center on Friday afternoon. The webcast is archived here.
The 2012 pattern — which is attached to this blog as a PDF along with the 2011, 2010 and 2009 patterns — is 39 feet with 25.2 mL of oil at a 2.20-1 ratio of the outside track to the middle.
The 2011 pattern was 41 feet with 27.35 mL at a 2.84-1 ratio.
The 2010 pattern was 40 feet with 26.05 mL at a 2.44-1 ratio.
The 2009 pattern was 40 feet with 26.16 mL at a 2.40-1 ratio,
The 2008 pattern (available at Kegel.net in the pattern library) was 40 feet with 24.0 mL at a 2.50-1 ratio,
The 2007 pattern (available at Kegel.net in the pattern library) was 40 feet with 23.24 mL at a 3.11-1 ratio.
Update: I had a couple of guys send me the patterns for 2006, 2005 and 2003 and they now are attached as PDFs.
The ratios were not done the same in 2006, and were not listed for 2005 and 2003, but the distance and oil volume were.
The 2006 pattern was 39 feet with just 19mL. Remember that the scores were fairly high in 2006 when the outside was open similar to 2002 in Billings — the only two years since I started bowling the tournament in 1979 that the outside was open like that.
The 2005 pattern was just 38 feet with 23.96 mL. In 2005, outside 10-board was out of bounds and scores were the lowest of the last decade. We won the team all-events in 2005 with just 9,698. That's the lowest winning score going back at least two decades and it has not been under 9,949 since 2005.
You can look up Open Championships scores going back to 2005 here.
The 2003 pattern was just 39 feet with 25.2 mL, all forward. That was the year fresh oil for all team squads started and I believe it also was the last year AMF synthetic lanes were used.
Looking at this year's pattern, using the "minus 31" theorem, a 39-foot pattern (that isn't a house shot) should theoretically be played with a breakpoint about 8 board.
A 39-foot pattern can sometimes be played even farther outside, although 25.2 mL of oil is a fairly significant amount that might make that difficult.
There are six loads of forward oil from 2-board to 2-board but they only go down 9.9 feet and the next loads don't start until 5-board, so depending how much drag there is from buffing, a far outside shot could be in play.
And if it is, it will require 10 players willing to go after the pattern from outside and stick to it because if you start out there you're almost certainly going to stuggle if you jump inside after working the outside.
This year could be very interesting.
Almost certainly, balls with surface will be needed to control reaction on the fresh — 25 mL of oil still is a lot. And straight angles always are best on a relatively flat pattern.
My doubles partner Steve Richter put the pattern out Friday night at the center he manages in Sheboygan Falls. The big "but" in what follows is that the lane surface at Sheboygan Falls hooks a bit more than the National Bowling Stadium. And I would expect that the brand new lanes in Baton Rouge will have less friction than the ones in the Stadium that now are several years old.
Steve said he was surprised to find that the 2012 pattern played very similar to the way the 2011 pattern played at his center, which turned out to be fairly close to what we experienced in Reno with just slightly more hook in Sheboygan Falls.
He applied the pattern twice with full stripping to eliminate as much house memory as possible and bowled for about 30 minutes with six different balls — three with low pins and three with high pins.
He said the same area of about 10 or so at the arrows with a slight swing to the breakpoint played best on the fresh. He was surprised at how much swing he had on some shots, but last year we had more swing at his center than in Reno.
He did see that there was less oil piled up in the front of the lane — the front-to-back taper of oil is less severe this year — so balls didn't squirt to the right as much when moving in/opening up angles.
The reverse drop brush/return oil starts at 34 feet this year as opposed to 31 feet last year, which also helps even the front-to-back taper and may help create a less severe reaction off of the oil line.
So even though the pattern is flatter, ball reaction may be smoother this year.
Steve said he didn't see an extreme outside shot playing well, and he said he wasn't surprised that the two patterns weren't that different due to the factors above and because he believes that 2.20-1 and 2.84-1 are not that different — both require good shotmaking — and that significant ball guidance doesn't really begin until ratios reach around 4-1.
Former Midwest PBA laneman Bryan Hill posted on my Facebook page that he thought the 2012 pattern reminded him of PBA Chameleon, which also is 39 feet but has less oil volume. Chameleon can sometimes be played outside.
Proprietor, excellent bowler and lane guru Jerry Kessler, who bowls on Ken Duffield's team this year, said on my Facebook page that he thought the 2012 pattern may favor power players, and that the 34-foot starting point for the drop brush/reverse oil might make the pattern play tighter than last year.
Duffield, who has had several big Open Championships in recent years, and his group bowl early next month and should provide a good indication of scoring pace for this year.
The bottom line is that I would caution anyone that it is way too early to make definitive judgments. I want to hear from good bowlers who actually compete in Baton Rouge.
But perhaps scores may not be as low as my initial impressions.
One thing is certain: 10 bowlers working together in team event will be able to create a good-scoring environment if they choose a smart strategy and execute it properly.
Here is my early report on the 2011 pattern a year ago.
And here is the blog I wrote on the 2010 pattern that includes a story I wrote for Bowling This Month magazine on how our Turbo 2-N-1 Grips teams strategize and attack the USBC Open Championships. It includes a section on how to read lane pattern information.
I thought Friday's live webcast was fairly good considering that USBC has just a handful of people to work on something like this whereas an ESPN would have dozens, I'm sure.
USBC video producer Matt Lawson was superb as always and USBC lane guru Eric Pierson did a solid job explaining his philosophy and the pattern, joined by renowned coach Bill Hall, who will work the Showcase lanes in Baton Rouge.
The one thing I really would have liked to have seen is some "known" top level bowlers throwing on the pattern so it would be easier to judge than the unnamed folks who did throw. Along with that would be some explanation of the balls being thrown and the attack plan being used.
(For fairness, ineligible top pros could be used. Or top level bowlers could bowl on the Showcase lanes that are available to everyone.)
The lefty who bowled on the webcast played out near the gutter and appeared to have an OK reaction, although it looked like he was throwing a shiny ball. None of the righties played outside of about 10-board.
My ideas would make for a more complex show next year but I think that's what the diehards who watch something like this want to know.
Then again, if Hall gave out all of his secrets who would buy his coaching?
The official USBC viewer count was 481. I predicted 325, considering that it was during a workday and also was to be archived for on-demand viewing.
I would expect thousands to watch the archive.