Butturff Takes Early U.S. Open Lead with Near 240 Average

by Matt Cannizzaro, USBC Communications 0

RENO, Nev. - Jakob Butturff of Tempe, Arizona, may not be a U.S. Open champion, but he still has been one of the most dominant and talked about bowlers at the tournament in recent years.

Following two less-than-stellar performances at the prestigious event, the 26-year-old left-hander has reclaimed his place at the top of the U.S. Open standings, this time pacing the 108-player field at the National Bowling Stadium with a 1,914 eight-game total, a 239.25 average.

He was followed in the standings Tuesday by Sean Lavery-Spahr of Pasadena, Texas (1,851), Brent Boho of Indianapolis (1,843), Sweden's Pontus Andersson (1,837) and Michael Davidson of Versailles, Ohio (1,832).

Butturff, who already feels comfortable at the famed NBS, felt his game matched up well to the day's 36-foot oil pattern. He also was very consistent, posting a high game of 248 and a low game of 222.

"We knew the scores probably would be on the higher side today, and I was fortunate that everything matched up for me," said Butturff, a seven-time Professional Bowlers Association Tour champion. "Tomorrow definitely will not be a strike fest. It will be about making spares. It was nice to get out to a good start and get as many pins as possible when I had a good look."

The first three days of competition will include eight-game blocks for all competitors, each on a different oil pattern, after which, the field will be cut to the top 36 to face a fourth oil pattern for eight additional games.

Tuesday's pattern was the shortest of the week, and Wednesday's challenge will be a flat 40-foot lane condition. The four patterns will range from 36-44 feet.

Competition at the National Bowling Stadium resumes Wednesday at 11 a.m. Eastern.

Total pinfall for 32 games will determine the 24 players for the round-robin portion of the event, and their 56-game totals, including 30 bonus pins for each win in match play, will decide the five players for the championship stepladder.

Each round of qualifying and match play at the 2021 U.S. Open is being broadcast live at BowlTV.com and simulcast on FloBowling.

The U.S. Open will conclude live on Fox Sports' FS1 on Sunday as part of the 2021 PBA Tour television schedule, airing from 2-4 p.m. Eastern. The winner will take home the coveted green jacket and a $30,000 top prize. The event is considered a major on the PBA Tour.

Butturff, who won the 2019 United States Bowling Congress Masters for his first major title, has been heartbreakingly close to pulling that U.S. Open jacket over his shoulders, finishing as the runner-up in 2017 and 2018 after earning the No. 1 seed for those championship rounds by 617 pins and 552 pins, respectively.

Despite being a victim of the format in the end, he considers the U.S. Open to be one of his best events, and he enjoys that it's such a test of versatility and creativity.

Bowling well in 2021 also would mean instant redemption for the 2019 and 2020 events.

In 2019, he withdrew in the third round due to an injury. In 2020, he failed to make the first cut and finished 58th.

"Even though I've won the Masters, I am proud of the success I've had at the U.S. Open, and I enjoy the long format with the bonus pins," Butturff said. "It's a true test with a variety of conditions, and now tomorrow will be all about making spares. I did feel more comfortable on the flat pattern than I expected, so I'm looking forward to it."

The majority of the competitors this week earned direct entry into the event based on their on-lane performances throughout 2020, while 43 bowlers advanced to the 108-player field through Sunday's eight-game pre-tournament qualifier.

Australia's Jason Belmonte is the defending champion at the U.S. Open and looking for his record 14th major title, along with the opportunity to be the only player in history to complete the Super Slam two times.

The feat includes winning the U.S. Open, USBC Masters, PBA Tournament of Champions, PBA World Championship and PBA Players Championship, and hall of famer Mike Aulby is the only other person to accomplish it.

Belmonte, a 37-year-old two-hander, finished the first day of the 2021 U.S. Open in 28th place with a 1,715 total, a 214.38 average.

Only four bowlers - Andy Varipapa, Don Carter, Dick Weber and Dave Husted - have successfully defended their U.S. Open titles. Husted was the last to accomplish the feat, doing so in 1996.

For more information on the U.S. Open, visit BOWL.com/USOpen.

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