The U.S. Open is the most demanding tournament in bowling by far, with the most difficult lane condition and a long grind of games facing what always is a great field.
So the standings heading into Sunday’s stepladder TV finals live on ESPN at 2 p.m. Central time should surprise no one.
Top seed Mike Fagan just won the USBC Masters and clearly has become one of the top players in the world.
You could call him the hottest player in bowling if not for Jason Belmonte, the second seed who has been the overall best bowler in the world for the last several months.
Third seed Ryan Shafer is a Hall of Fame talent without Hall of Fame credentials only because he can’t win enough on TV. And he excels in majors: coming in to the Open, he had 13 TV finals and five second-place finishes in majors in his career.
And the legendary Pete Weber has won the Open four times and his rally from 13th to fourth on Saturday clearly shows that he still is among the best only roughly half a year from turning 50.
You have to go down to 12th to find someone who might surprise a bowling fan, but anyone who knows bowling knows that John Janawicz and Ron Nelson Jr. (13th) are two great talents who just haven’t spent their lives competing on the PBA Tour.
Player of the Year for 2011-12 could be at stake Sunday.
Fagan will put himself in great position if he wins and Belmonte would arguably lock it up if he wins.
Weber has never been Player of the Year, although he should have at least once — but that’s another story. A win and perhaps then a win in the Tournament of Champions might get him one of the two things missing from his all-time resume. (The USBC Masters title is the other.)
But I think Shafer is bowling for even more — a small slice of joy to go with a giant pie of major tourney disappointment in arguably the biggest what-might-have-been career in bowling history.
Unfortunately, I am bowling a tournament in Waterloo, Iowa, Sunday and will have to watch it on my DVR when I get home.
It should be an awesome show — the kind that made me want to be a bowler when I was a little kid 40 years ago.
First prize is $60,000 and a berth in the Round of 36 for the Tournament of Champions
The PBA news release after Saturday's match play ended is here.
69TH U.S. OPEN
Brunswick Zone-Carolier, North Brunswick, N.J., Saturday
FINAL MATCH PLAY STANDINGS
(after 50 games, including match play bonus pins; top four advance to ESPN stepladder finals Sunday at 2 p.m. CT)
1, Mike Fagan, Dallas, 16-8, 11,343.
2, Jason Belmonte, Australia, 14-9-1, 11,279.
3, Ryan Shafer, Horseheads, N.Y., 11-13, 11,095.
4, Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo., 14-10, 11,010.
5, Rhino Page, Dade City, Fla., 15-7-2, 10,978, $7,000.
6, Ronnie Russell, Marion, Ind., 16-8, 10,909, $6,000.
7, Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas, 10-14, 10,864, $5,500.
8, Osku Palermaa, Finland, 15-9, 10,837, $5,000.
9, Bill O'Neill, Southampton, Pa., 11-13, 10,835, $4,500.
10, Josh Blanchard, Gilbert, Ariz., 14-10, 10,801, $4,200.
11, Dan MacLelland, Canada, 13-11, 10,777, $4,000.
12, John Janawicz, Winter Haven, Fla., 12-12, 10,769, $3,800.
13, Ron Nelson Jr., Bridgeview, Ill., 12-11-1, 10,760, $3,600.
14, Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., 13-11, 10,758, $3,500.
15, Jason Couch, Clermont, Fla., 11-13, 10,680, $3,500.
16, Jesse Buss, Wichita, Kan., 10-14, 10,615, $3,300.
17, Rusty Thomsen, Morgan, N.J., 14-10, 10,566, $3,200.
18, Dino Castillo, Carrollton, Texas, 12-12, 10,503, $3,100.
19, Anthony LaCaze, Melrose Park, Ill., 9-15, 10,498, $3,000.
20, P.J. Sonday, Luzerne, Pa., 11-13, 10,469, $2,900.
21, Missy Parkin, Lake Forest, Calif., 9-14-1, 10,449, $2,800.
22, Brian Kretzer, Dayton, Ohio, 8-16, 10,396, $2,700.
23, Brian LeClair, Athens, N.Y., 7-17, 10,254, $2,650.
24, Marshall Kent, Yakima, Wash., 8-15-1, 10,218, $2,600.