Friday, April 2, 2010

Big Names Lead the Marathon Open

It's been an eventful week at the Marathon Open at the AMF Country Club Lanes in Baltimore, MD, and the proverbial cream has most definitely risen to the top. This is the last stop on tour for the season, and it's one of the most challenging. The bowlers who make it to the final round before the televised finals will end up bowling 53 games on seven different oil patterns--Cheetah, Shark, Viper, Chameleon, Scorpion, Earl Anthony, and Dick Weber. There is no match play during these rounds. It's simply a matter of the top five players in total pinfall competing in the televised stepladder finals Sunday. And the results of this tournament will determine Player of the Year.

Right now, Walter Ray Williams Jr. and Bill O'Neill are tied for the PoY lead, and Mike Scroggins is not too far behind. All three have made the first two cuts and are still in contention this week. But Walter Ray injured his back during the Scorpion round and was throwing his strike and spare balls very slowly enroute to a 183 his sixth game before summoning some magic and shooting 246 the final game of the round to keep himself in seventh place just below Mike Scroggins who sits in sixth place. This is the first time I can recall Walter Ray ever being visibly hobbled by any kind of injury, and one wonders if he'll be able to hang on and finish out the qualifying rounds much less score well enough to place high enough to keep Scroggins and O'Neill, who currently resides in 24th place, from besting him in the Player of the Year race.

If Walter Ray doesn't make it to the televised finals, and I don't see how he can given his back injury, and neither Scroggins nor O'Neill make it either, it's my understanding that Walter Ray will become the first bowler in PBA history to win seven Player of the Year awards, and he'll also be the oldest, at 50, to ever win the coveted reward. But if Scroggins wins the title, or O'Neill wins it or makes it into the televised finals and Walter Ray doesn't, then O'Neill will win the award.

I don't know about you, but I'm pulling for Walter Ray to rewrite the record book by winning his seventh award at his geezerly age. But it ain't gonna be easy, judging from the way he was favoring his back earlier today. And how's he going to feel when his back stiffens before the Earl Anthony round of seven games this afternoon?

Another interesting fact is that Wes Malott has led the tournament since the second round. But can he hang on given the fact that he'll be finishing out on two patterns on which he failed to even make the cut earlier this season? I'm guessing that he can, because I'm thinking that the Wes Malott who's bowling so well now is an improved version of the Wes Malott who struggled earlier this season.

And then there's Tommy Jones in second place and bowling awfully well right now. Some may think that because he hasn't won a tournament this year and hasn't been on TV a whole lot that he's having a terrible year. But it only seems that way because of his previous successes. The fact is, Mr. Jones has bowled quite well most of the year and been solidly in contention in many tournaments.

It probably comes as no surprise that Chris Barnes is very much in the thick of the battle, sitting pretty in third place. If ever there were a tournament that seems tailor made for Chris' awesome versatility and overall skill, this is it. I'd be very surprised if he isn't bowling on Sunday, whether or not he takes the title.

And, finally, although Jason Belmonte failed to make the cut to the top 24 after the Scorpion round, Pete Weber had a very impressive round, going +369 for seven games with scores of 285-217-300-249-258-218-242. That moved him up from 13th to 4th place.

Here are the top 13 after 39 games, with two seven game rounds to go, the first of which will take place tonight and the second tomorrow:

1. Wes Malott (+1355)
2. Tommy Jones (+1247)
3. Chris Barnes (+1210)
4. Pete Weber (+1196)
5. Brad Angelo (+1155)
6. Mike Scroggins (+1151)
7. Walter Ray Williams Jr. (+1117)
8. Brian Waliczek (+1017)
9. Mika Koivuniemi (+1000)
10. Jeff Carter (+994)
11. Dave D'Entremont (+972)
12. Sean Rash (+951)
13. Robert Smith (+940)

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