NORTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. - Defending champion Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y., took control of the leaderboard at the 2015 Bowlmor AMF U.S. Women's Open early in Friday's final qualifying round and built on her lead during the opening round of match play Friday night.
The three-time U.S. Women's Open winner entered the day at Brunswick Zone Carolier in third place, more than 200 pins behind her Team USA teammate, Shannon O'Keefe of O'Fallon, Ill., but shooting the highest eight-game block of the morning by more than 100 pins helped Johnson turn that deficit into a 71-pin advantage.
Johnson then averaged more than 222 on the way to a 7-1 match-play record to finish the day atop the standings with an 8,996 total, which includes 30 bonus pins for each win.
"I tried something different in practice today and had a totally different look with some other equipment," said Johnson, who won the U.S. Women's Open in 1996, 2007 and 2013. "I was able to play the outside part of the lane and took advantage of it. I got comfortable and made great shots. I also made good decisions and ball choices along the way."
O'Keefe is second with an 8,740 total and is followed by Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, N.Y. (8,605), Singapore's Jazreel Tan (8,539) and 2015 Professional Women's Bowling Association points leader Stefanie Johnson of Grand Prairie, Texas (8,378).
Johnson never fell below second place on the way to the stepladder finals in 2013 and defeated McEwan and then-defending champion Kelly Kulick of Union, New Jersey, for the win. Now, she is the player to beat at the 2015 event, but that's nothing new for her.
The new United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer reminded the rest of the bowlers on the PWBA Tour that she's still a dominant force by winning the season-opening USBC Queens in May and then finding her way back into the winner's circle last week at the PWBA Detroit Open.
"I definitely feel like I've made the most of this summer, and even being in a position to win both majors in the same year would be a special feat," Johnson said. "In the past, when I won the Queens, I didn't make the U.S. Open show, and when I've won the U.S. Open, I didn't make the Queens show. But, it's still one game at a time, with a long way to go. I'm coming in tomorrow with a lot of confidence and a good attitude, and all I'm going to do is focus on making more good shots."
The top 24 bowlers will be back on the lanes Saturday at 10 a.m. Eastern for 16 additional games of match play. Pinfall will continue to carry over, and their 56-game totals, including bonus pins during match play, will determine the top five, who will advance to Sunday's stepladder finals.
The televised finals are scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern on CBS Sports Network, and the winner will take home a top prize of $50,000.
All competitors at the 2015 U.S. Women's Open bowled 24 games over three days, while the top third of the field had eight more games Friday to fight for a spot in the top 24. The final spot went to Karen Marcano of Venezuela with a 6,363 total, a 198.84 average for 32 games.
This week's tournament is the final open event of the 2015 PWBA Tour schedule. All qualifying and match-play rounds are being broadcast live on Xtra Frame. For subscription information, visit XtraFrame.TV.
Bowlmor AMF, the largest operator of bowling centers in the world, is hosting and providing television sponsorship of more than $250,000 for the U.S. Women's Open and the 2015 Bowlmor AMF U.S. Open, which will be held at AMF Garland Lanes in suburban Dallas/Fort Worth from Nov. 2-8.