SPOILER ALERT: The 2017 PBA World Championship aired live this afternoon on ESPN3 at 3 p.m. ET. Do not read any further if you prefer to not know results until the TV show airs on Dec. 31.
Two-hander Kyle Troup traded strikes with lefty Matt Sanders, who was making his TV debut, in a high-scoring opening match as Troup blasted a six-bagger out of the gate while Sanders struck, spared, then posted a four-bagger of his own before both players spared in their 7th frames. Sanders then doubled while Troup came up light to leave a 2-pin in his foundation frame, which he converted. A 10-pin withstood a love tap from a messenger on his next ball, which Troup then whiffed. Sanders struck, then covered a 7-pin spare to force a rolloff with a 248 tie. Had Troup converted that 10-pin in his 10th, he would have won the match outright. Troup struck in the rolloff while Sanders saw his shot check up high and leave the 6-7-10 split to lose.
In the second match, Ciminelli never seemed comfortable, telling Kimberly Pressler that the TV pair had undergone some transition. His mic picked up some commentary in which Ciminelli expressed anxiety about ball reaction on the pair after some errant shots. Ciminelli opened in his 4th when he left the 4-6-10. Transition seemed to dog Troup as well, as he left and failed to convert the 3-6-10 early on and then opened again in his 6th, chastising himself aloud, “can’t make a spare on TV.” He did, however, convert a 10-pin spare in his next frame. Throwing urethane for the second straight game, Troup continued struggling to get his ball to turn the corner on the right lane, leaving a 2-pin in his 8th, which he converted. Troup needed a double and nine in his 10th to win, got the first strike and then left the bucket to lose, 193-180. Here again, had Troup made his spares he would have won the match handily.
Jason Belmonte then stepped up in his golden bowling shoes to try to become the only bowler in the PBA Tour’s nearly 60-year history to win three majors in a single season, having won the USBC Masters and the Barbasol PBA Players Championship in February. He soon learned it would be a tough road to that feat, as he failed to strike through the first four frames, sparing each time. He recovered with a double in frames four and five but Ciminelli soon was working on a six-bagger from frames three through eight. That was fine with Belmonte, who strung together the last eight strikes to finish with 257. The crowd shrieked and gasped after Ciminelli left two pins standing following a double to force yet another rolloff on the show. Belmonte’s shot came up a tad light and left a 7-pin while Ciminelli, seeming certain he had thrown a great shot — “Ace, baby! Ace!” he shouted after the ball left his hand — instead left three pins standing and lost, then clutched his hands behind his head and stared down the lane in shock.
Svensson, who was the top seed by a mile for this show with a 336-pin lead over No. 2 Belmonte, found himself behind early when he left the 4-6-10 on his first ball. Svensson recovered with a four-bagger while Belmonte spared up a 10-pin in his 4th following a turkey of his own and then struck again in his 5th. He returned from that shot with a surprise: The grip in the middle finger hole of his ball popped out and still was clinging to his finger as he walked to the ball return. An odd 4-8 leave dogged Belmonte in his 8th frame, but he spared and then struck in his 9th. Svensson’s 5-pin leave in his 9th allowed Belmonte to strike out for the win. When he left a half-7 on his first shot in the 10th, Belmonte then needed only a strike plus nine pins to win. A messenger tore across the pin deck on his first shot to tomahawk a stubborn 10-pin for the needed strike. He then crushed the next shot for another strike, pumping his fist and pounding his chest as he walked over to the crowd beside the pair and shouted, “Yes! Right here! Yes!” He won by a score of 238-225. In a career replete with historic accolades, Belmonte adds what arguably is his most impressive feat — the only player in PBA history to bag three major titles in a season.