I'm still shaking my head over Walter Ray's six count in the fill ball of the final game of match play. But it may not have made that much of a difference if Tommy Jones had bowled as well against him as he did against Jason Couch that first game. Walter finished as high as he did because he just kept grinding away through qualifying and match play, making all his makable spares and getting a double or turkey every now and then to salt away some decent, if unspectacular, games. But he didn't seem to match up with the lanes as impressively as he often does, and I didn't see him shoot any big games during the week. Still, I wish he'd thrown the "high hard one" on that fill ball. Don't you think that, with his accuracy, he'd have likely knocked down more than six pins, or am I suffering from hindsight is 20/20 itis?
In following the U.S. Open throughout the week, one of my convictions was strongly reinforced. If you subscribe to Xtra Frame and watch the qualifying and, especially. match play, you get so much more out of the tournament than if you watch only the televised finals on Sunday. One thing you would have gained last week is greater respect for Jason Belmonte's dazzling talent and skill as he dominated the lanes, the pins. and his fellow bowlers through much of the tournament until his hamstring injury reduced him to mere mortal status. "Bowling Doctor" Jeff Mark was certainly dazzled by Belmo's ability to adjust his axis tilt to suit his angle of attack, to throw reverse hooks to convert difficult right side spares, and to put the ball where he wants it and repeat shots on the tour's most formidable oil pattern in a way that seems miraculous for a two-handed, thumbless cranker. This guy's got game like we've never seen before, and we'll be seeing a lot more from him as soon as his hamstring heals. I'd love to see how he does in the plastic ball championship coming up shortly.
If you didn't watch Xtra Frame, you also missed Ken Simard's insightful commentary during the final round of match play. Simard bowled the tournament but didn't make it to match play. Too bad. I would have liked to see him bowl. I didn't know this, but he said that a few years ago, his ball was measured in the 690 RPM range at the Kegel Center in Florida. I thought only Robert Smith was capable of that. But he's been trying to tone it down to make his ball more controllable. You can watch a YouTube video of him bowling Wes Malott here.
Without Xtra Frame, you also missed Rob Stone's commentary during the opening part of the final round of match play. He sat in for two or three games and was even more animated and jocular than he is on the ESPN telecasts. If you don't like him, he might have driven you crazy. But if you do like him, you would have probably enjoyed him. You certainly can't deny his energy and enthusiasm. One of the first things he said was that he was disappointed when he walked in the building and it was as quiet as a church. He said bowling fans need to make more noise, show more enthusiasm, and inject more excitement into the sport.
Do you think he's right?
Finally, congratulations to Bill O'Neill who seems poised to attain PBA superstar status. As Jason Thomas reports in his article today, no less an eye for bowling talent than Chris Barnes says that O'Neill is "scary good." He may very well end up this season's Player of the Year with the year he's having.