Not long before winning the 2013 U.S. Open for the first major title of his career, Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas, had knee surgery, which made the long event a true physical test.
The tournament was on hiatus in 2014, so now, two years later, the 39-year-old right-hander finally gets to put his title on the line at the upcoming Bowlmor AMF U.S. Open, scheduled to take place at AMF Garland Lanes in Garland, Texas, from Nov. 2-8.
The televised finals are set for Sunday, Nov. 8 at 1 p.m. Eastern on the CBS Sports Network, and the winner will take home a top prize of $50,000. All qualifying and match-play rounds will be broadcast live on Xtra Frame.
Even with his knee now mended, Malott knows how demanding the U.S. Open's 56-game format can be, especially against more than 250 of the best bowlers in the world. He also is very cognizant of the mental demands of the event, well-known for its traditionally challenging lane condition, and plans to come in ready, both mentally and physically.
Changes for the 2015 U.S. Open include not revealing the oil pattern until a special lane conditioning announcement show on Monday, Nov. 2 at 11:30 a.m. ET live on PBA’s online bowling channel Xtra Frame.
"It's always fun to play the role of the defending champion, but I know once we get started, I'll be one of the guys with a target on my back," said Malott, a 10-time PBA Tour titlist. "I plan to stay within myself and not panic at all if I make a mistake. It's a long format. I'll also focus on the mental part and not worrying about what other people are doing."
Another thing Malott won't be focused on as the week progresses is thoughts of when and if he'll claim his first major championship. He erased those worries with a 214-156 win against top-seeded Jason Belmonte in 2013.
"There were a lot of close calls and TV shows in majors, but I just couldn't put it together," said Malott, who defeated 2014 PBA Rookie of the Year Marshall Kent and five-time U.S. Open winner Pete Weber on the way to the 2013 final. "That win was big for me, and all I can hope for is that I can keep putting myself in that position."
In his career, Malott has more than a dozen top-10 finishes in majors, including runner-up performances at the 2014 PBA World Championship and Barbasol Tournament of Champions, 2013 United States Bowling Congress Masters, 2009-2010 PBA World Championship and the U.S. Open during the 2006-2007 PBA season.
The 2008-2009 PBA Player of the Year and George Young High Average Award winner has enjoyed a successful 2015 season, which includes a win with Norm Duke at the Mark Roth/Marshall Holman PBA Doubles Championship (Jan. 2015) and seven top-15 finishes in 12 events.
Malott will enter the 2015 U.S. Open prepared and excited about bowling in his home state.
"It will be nice to be close to home, and I know a lot of people in the Dallas area because that is where my wife (Maryiedth) is from and because we lived near there for a while," Malott said. "We still know a lot of people there, so it will be fun to see them and have them there."
Belmonte tries for third consecutive major
Another one of the significant storylines for the U.S. Open will be two-time defending PBA Player of the Year Belmonte’s try for his third consecutive major title to join Hall of Famer Norm Duke as the only players to accomplish the feat.
Since finishing second to Malott in the 2013 U.S. Open, Belmonte has demonstrated his dominance in PBA major tournaments, winning a record three consecutive USBC Masters titles and back-to-back Barbasol PBA Tournament of Champions titles, including events held earlier in 2015.
Bowling fans can watch their favorite players compete in person or live on Xtra Frame, starting with the first round of qualifying Tuesday at 8 a.m. Central/9 a.m. Eastern.
All competitors at the 2015 U.S. Open will bowl 24 qualifying games over three days, before the field is cut to the top third for eight additional games. The 32-game pinfall totals will determine the 24 players for the round-robin match-play portion of the tournament, after which, the top five will advance to the stepladder finals based on their 56-game totals.