Three days now of intense battles for supremacy in the qualifying rounds and most of the players are finding the going tough. After a very forgiving lane pattern used last week in San Marino, the 170-plus players vying for places above the cut here at Bowling Pedralbes are finding that they have to foces one hundred per cent on every shot through the six game blocks.
With long waiting lists for places on each of the twelve remaining squads it means that there is no room for complacency as each entry could be the last available and all would love to be in Sunday's final rounds.
Already through are Catalan Marcial Ovide, Syafiq Ridhwan of Malaysia and Catalonia Open champion Brian Voss, winners of the opening three squads. winners of each of the 15 squads advance and they are joined by qualifiers 1-27 and six leading women who do not make the cut, the latter a rule unique to Barcelona.
Therefore, a squad of 48 will play the first stage of the final rounds, playing four games with 50 per cent of their qualifying pinfall carried forward. Then the leading 24 from that group go forward to stage two.
Full details of this event are available on: www.tbowling.cat and the web stream of the final will be on the same website at about 18:15 on Sunday evening.
Thursday opened with two players exceeding the 1400-barrier, Zulmazran Zulkifli keeping the Malaysian flag to the fore with a 1430 to pinch first place on the overall leader board from team-mate Syafiq Ridhwan, and Belgium's Mats Maggi second on the squad with 1405.
'Zul', as we all call Zulkifli, was bowling on the same pair as Maggi in the sixth and going into the final game had a 14-pin lead over the
Belgian. Both enjoyed a strikefest finale but the Malaysian's 279 to a 268 from the Belgian saw the result 1430 - 1405.
"I had Coco Pops cereal for breakfast this morning and that seems to be the best recipe for bowling good," joked Zulkifli in the post-match interview. "It was a delicious breakfast, just great. I was joking with Ridhwan yesterday that in my last game I would beat his score of 1404. We were just joking around.
"I did some balkl changes at the end of the third game and it all worked well for me. We are getting used to changing lanes every game on the European Tour. I think it is fair and very good for the sport. I hope I can keep a good position for the rest of the qualifying.
"I love bowling in Europe so much. Hopefully we can get good funding next year so maybe I can bowl in all the Tour events as I love it here."
Malaysian coach Holloway Cheah added the comment: "Hopefully Malaysians at the top will carry on. Maybe the final result will be one-two again."
Defending champion Gery Verbruggen, the stocky Belgian, made his 2011 Barcelona Open debut on squad five but only hit 1242 to place ninth on the squad. But on either side of him pins were flying for Scandinavians Marcus Berndt from Sweden and Finland's
Perttu Jussila, the pair both challenging for pole position on the leader board.
Jussila slipped to a 194 in the sixth and final game, leaving the door open for the double Malta Open champion to walk sedately though and had the 4-pin fallen in the first shot of the tenth frame Berndt would have been the overall leader. However, his 1424 takes him into second place in the overall standings and, most important of all, a place in Sunday's finals.
Talented leftie Paul Moor had his usual ups and downs through the six games, falling off the pace after a 193 third game, but his 1377 total must be good enough to qualify and leaves him third on the squad.
"Today I threw some great shots and had the carry," explained Berndt is his post-match interview. "This year I have developed a lot in Wichita where I am studying at the university, so this proves I have really made some progress. I have basically grown up with a bowling ball in my hand as both my parents were on the Swedish national teams, so it was not a big surprise that I started bowling.
"Barcelona is always a great tournament, I love coming here. I think this is my third year. so I hope we can have a nice final on Sunday."
Squad interviews on:
the big guns came on board and fired many broadsides through the six games but none of the stars of the bowling world could match the 1400s set earlier in the day.
When it was time for the chickens come home to roost it was between Amleto Monacelli, Osku Palermaa, Robert Andersson and Stuart Williams to decide who could give the best tenth frame finish.
That honor went to the Englishman, Williams, who finished his fifth and sixth games with a brace of 247s to total 1355, a score
somewhat less than the 1430 hit by Malaysia's Zulmazran Zulkifli this morning. The new father, Palermaa, whose partner Veronika presented him with a baby girl lst week, rallied with 1325 but disappointed to hit a lowly 174 in his third game, and Sweden's Andersson dropped from the high standard achieved over the past couple of events to place third on the squad with 1324.
Williams is enjoying a greatly improved bowling career; "This was my first entry, so winning the squad gives me an automatic spot into the finals. That is a weight off my mind with the difficulty to get spots on the squads now.
"This is the best I have ever been playing. In the last six events I've been at least in the top five places and that's really good. It has been hard working on the things I have been struggling with then being patient. Of course, I'm happy now with a nice girl friend so thing's are looking pretty good.
"The lane pattern here is a lot flatter than what we have been playing on over the last few weeks. I started off this evening with a 225 with an open in the eighth frame. It seemed like an OK score, and then I was following Mika (Koivuniemi). He evidently sees the lanes a little different than me and I made some bad shots and I rescued that game with a 182. After that I felt pretty comfortable, bowling further inside and slowing down. Now I've made the final it is going to be a bit more relaxing over the next couple of days."
The final squad for Thursday and the end of a very long day saw quite a large contingent of primary entries, including the group from Cyprus and EBT regulars David Canady from Germany, Belgium's Jean Marc Lebon and Mik Stampe from Denmark. The
Cypriots were involved in the Cockatoos Paphos Open just a couple of weeks ago and are competing in the Barcelona Open for the first time.
Although the Swedish national women's team is here in force, only the diminutive Nina Flack competed on this squad. The Malaysians had their five girls on the roster: Esther Cheah, Sin Li Jane, Sharon Koh, Siti Shazwani and Jacqueline Sijore.
This was really a tough squad in which to predict the outcome. The girls have a good record here and the Malaysians were looking strong.
The added incentive of a free pass into Sunday's final is a big carrot for the donkey and puts pressure on those with a chance as they go into the final game.
Eventually it was the Belgian flag to rise to the top of the mast as Jean Marc Semain, 32, manager of a ten-lane center in Mons emerged as champion of squad seven, rolling to his short bout of fame with a score of 1338. This was one of just five scores over 1300 on what may be the lowest scoring session so far this year.
Tomorrow (Friday) sees the penultimate day of qualifying with four squads - 09:00, 13:00, 17:00 and 21:00. That schedule will be repeated for the four final qualifying squads on Saturday.
The 15 squad winners plus qualifiers 1-27 will advance to the final rounds, accompanied by the leading six women who do not make the cut.
TOP 25 STANDINGS AFTER SQUAD 7:
P Player Federation 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pins Hdcp Total
1 Zulkifli Zulmazran Malaysia 208 223 248 225 247 279 1430 0 1430
2 Marcus Berndt Sweden 239 236 244 247 244 214 1424 0 1424
3 Mats Maggi Belgium 211 215 252 212 247 268 1405 0 1405
4 Syafiq Ridhwan Malaysia 219 218 246 228 268 225 1404 0 1404
5 Adrian Ang Malaysia 206 225 235 269 227 225 1387 0 1387
6 Perttu Jussila Finland 239 258 248 232 212 194 1383 0 1383
7 Paul Moor England 257 212 190 265 220 233 1377 0 1377
8 Brian Voss USA 236 237 202 233 200 254 1362 0 1362
9 Stuart Williams England 224 182 240 215 247 247 1355 0 1355
10 Christian Racpan Germany 183 257 195 278 217 224 1354 0 1354
11 Jean Marc Samain Belgium 225 223 210 221 222 237 1338 0 1338
12 Mai Ginge Jensen Denmark 243 184 213 198 215 235 1288 48 1336
13 Osku Palermaa Finland 269 191 174 230 223 248 1335 0 1335
14 Zandra Aziela Malaysia 177 233 213 223 225 216 1287 48 1335
15 Marcial Ovide Marron Catalonia 230 207 259 209 212 212 1329 0 1329
16 Robert Andersson Sweden 179 256 247 224 207 211 1324 0 1324
17 Moi Perez Ibañez Catalonia 178 214 237 244 252 198 1323 0 1323
18 Amleto Monacelli Venezuela 175 215 237 248 226 217 1318 0 1318
19 Thomas Larsen Denmark 220 175 199 248 254 218 1314 0 1314
20 Mik Stampe Denmark 258 177 236 185 217 236 1309 0 1309
21 Sandra Andersson Sweden 215 187 237 216 214 192 1261 48 1309
22 Esther Cheah Malaysia 240 226 199 223 215 157 1260 48 1308
23 Kasper Walter Denmark 246 208 228 229 183 213 1307 0 1307
24 Jere Oksanen Finland 223 231 236 181 211 223 1305 0 1305
25 Nicole Sanders Netherlands 212 172 186 231 243 210 1254 48 1302