FAIRLAWN, Ohio (Feb. 7, 2020) – As the top seed for the stepladder finals of the 55th PBA Tournament of Champions, 11-time Go Bowling PBA Tour winner Bill O’Neill of Langhorne, Pennsylvania, will need to win one match for his second major title, while defending champion Jason Belmonte will try for a record fourth win in PBA’s signature tournament as the No. 3 seed.
The finals telecast for the season’s first major will air Sunday on FOX at 5 p.m. ET from AMF Riviera Lanes. In addition to the $100,000 first prize, a $1 million bonus will be paid if the winner bowls a 300 game in the title match.
O’Neill earned the top seed with a 9,717 42-game pinfall total including bonus pins, which was boosted by a 19-5 record in match play.
“I’ve been working hard on improving my physical and mental game over the past couple years which has enabled me to make more of a commitment to the adjustments I have to make,” said the 38-year-old O’Neill who won the 2010 U.S. Open for his lone major title. “If I have a bad game or run into trouble, I have much more confidence that I can dig myself out of it.
“I bowled consistently well the whole tournament and really was never in a situation where I felt I was losing momentum,” he added. “Now it’s time to work on a game plan for Sunday, commit to it and go out there and figure out a way to win.”
Qualifying second for the finals was 23-year-old two-hander Anthony Simonsen of Little Elm, Texas, who finished with a 9,674 pinfall and 14-10 record in match play.
Looking to make some more major tournament history of his own, the seven-time tour winner became the youngest player to win two majors when he defeated Belmonte 232-212 in the title match to win 2019 PBA Players Championship at age 22. He won the 2016 USBC Masters at age 19 to become the youngest to win a major.
For the second time in three years, the 36-year-old Belmonte who is the all-time major titles leader with 11 wins, narrowly made the cut to match play taking the 24th and final match play spot but worked his way up the standings during match play to qualify third for the finals.
After making the cut to match play by one pin, the five-time and reigning PBA Player of the Year earned the No. 3 seed with a 9,594 pinfall and 17-7 match play record.
In 2018 the Australian two-hander took the last match play spot by just seven pins and made a steady climb through three rounds of match play to qualify third for the stepladder finals finishing fourth in the tournament after losing the second stepladder match to eventual winner Matt O’Grady, 229-225.
Belmonte’s win in the 2019 Tournament of Champions was his 10th major title which tied Pete Weber and Earl Anthony for first on the all-time list. He won the PBA World Championship for his 11th major win a few weeks later to take sole possession of first on the all-time list.
Sunday’s stepladder finals will open with a match between two players from suburban Chicago.
Two-time tour winner Kris Prather of Plainfield, Illinois, who won the inaugural PBA Playoffs in 2019, earned the No. 4 seed for the finals with a 13-11 match play record and 9,393 pinfall. He will meet 15-time tour titlist and 2012 Tournament of Champions winner Sean Rash of Montgomery, Illinois, who earned the fifth seed with a 12-12 match play record and 9,371 pinfall.
TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS KICKS OFF “MILLION DOLLAR 300 BONUS” SERIES
The two players who will bowl for the $100,000 first prize in Sunday’s finals of the PBA Tournament of Champions also will be the first two players to try for the “$1 Million 300 Game Bonus” incentive. Live FOX coverage of the TOC finals from AMF Riviera Lanes in Fairlawn, Ohio, will begin at 5 p.m. EST
This week’s finals will be special because the competition will take place on lanes 27-28, the same pair of lanes where Don Johnson came the closest of any player ever to record a nationally-televised perfect game in the title match of a PBA major championship. When Johnson left a 10 pin in his iconic 299-268 victory over Dick Ritger, he fell face-first on the approach and Akron Beacon Journal photographer Don Roese froze the moment in time on film. Roese’s photo was later re-created by artist Marc Moon for the cover of the 1971 PBA souvenir program book, and Johnson’s historic image was later celebrated as the No. 1 most memorable moment in the PBA’s first 60 years.
Under the million-dollar incentive program, a $1 million bonus prize is again being offered to any player bowling a 300 game in the championship match of one of the following PBA on FOX/FS1 live telecasts: the TOC; PBA Players Championship at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl in Columbus Ohio (Saturday, Feb. 15 at 5:30 p.m. EST on FS1); the Go Bowling PBA Indianapolis Open at Royal Pin Woodland (Saturday, Feb. 29 at 8:30 p.m. EST on FS1) and PBA World Championship at South Point Bowling Plaza in Las Vegas (Wednesday, March 18 at 8 p.m. EST on FS1).
Only three perfect games have ever been bowled in the championship match of any nationally-televised PBA Tour event (including Tommy Jones’ 300 in the title match of the PBA Hall of Fame Classic to kick off the 2020 Go Bowling PBA Tour season), but no one has ever bowled a 300 to win a PBA major championship.
If you’d like to re-visit Johnson’s epic victory, click here for the YouTube clip on the title match: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLQ_WLrqlZI.
PBA TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
(a 2020 Go Bowling PBA Tour Tier 1 event)
AMF Riviera Lanes, Fairlawn, Ohio, Friday
SIXTH ROUND RESULTS
(after 42 games. Top five advance to Sunday’s stepladder finals. Includes match play record and total pinfall including bonus pins)
1, Bill O'Neill, Langhorne, Pa., 19-5, 9,717.
2, Anthony Simonsen, Little Elm, Texas, 14-10, 9,674.
3, Jason Belmonte, Australia, 17-7, 9,594
4, Kristopher Prather, Plainfield, Ill., 13-11, 9,393
5, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 12-12, 9,371.
6, Kyle Troup, Taylorsville, N.C., 15-8-1, 9,368, $8,000.
7, EJ Tackett, Bluffton, Ind., 13-11, 9,353, $7,000.
8, Stuart Williams, England, 14-10, 9,290, $6,000.
9, Dom Barrett, England, 12-11-1, 9,279, $5,500.
10, Kyle Sherman, O'Fallon, Mo., 10-14, 9,272, $5,000.
11, Mitch Hupe, Canada, 12-11-1, 9,268, $4,800.
12, Tom Daugherty, Riverview, Fla., 12-12, 9,207, $4,600.
13, Andrew Anderson, Holly, Mich., 12-12, 9,193, $4,400.
14, Josh Blanchard, Mesa, Ariz., 12-12, 9,192, $4,200.
15, Marshall Kent, Yakima, Wash., 10-14, 9,183, $4,000.
16, Dick Allen, Lexington, S.C., 15-9, 9,119, $3,800.
17, Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., 10-14, 9,053, $3,700.
18, Brad Angelo, Lockport, N.Y., 10-14, 9,033, $3,600.
19, AJ Chapman, Manchester, Iowa, 11-13, 9,023, $3,500.
20, Richard Teece, England, 10-13-1, 8,992, $3,400.
21, AJ Johnson, Oswego, Ill., 8-16, 8,958, $3,400.
22, Patrick Dombrowski, Parma, Ohio, 11-12-1, 8,861, $3,200.
23, Cristian Azcona, Puerto Rico, 10-13-1, 8,751, $3,200.
24, Connor Pickford, Charlotte, N.C., 3-21, 8,241, $3,000.
FIFTH ROUND RESULTS
(after 34 games. Includes match play record and total pinfall including bonus pins. All players advanced to final match play round)
1, Bill O'Neill, Langhorne, Pa., 14-2, 7,858.
2, Jason Belmonte, Australia, 12-4, 7,774.
3, Anthony Simonsen, Little Elm, Texas, 8-8, 7,721.
4, EJ Tackett, Bluffton, Ind., 10-6, 7,670.
5, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 8-8, 7,615.
6, Kristopher Prather, Plainfield, Ill., 9-7, 7,613.
7, Dom Barrett, England, 9-6-1, 7,570.
8, Kyle Sherman, O'Fallon, Mo., 7-9, 7,556.
9, Tom Daugherty, Riverview, Fla., 9-7, 7,537.
10, Andrew Anderson, Holly, Mich., 9-7, 7,536.
11, Mitch Hupe, Canada, 8-7-1, 7,475.
12, Kyle Troup, Taylorsville, N.C., 10-6, 7,467.
13, Dick Allen, Lexington, S.C., 11-5, 7,439.
14, Brad Angelo, Lockport, N.Y., 8-8, 7,417.
15, AJ Chapman, Manchester, Iowa, 9-7, 7,393.
16, Josh Blanchard, Mesa, Ariz., 7-9, 7,385.
17, Stuart Williams, England, 7-9, 7,364.
18, Marshall Kent, Yakima, Wash., 5-11, 7,358.
19, AJ Johnson, Oswego, Ill., 6-10, 7,346.
20, Cristian Azcona, Puerto Rico, 7-8-1, 7,245.
21, Richard Teece, England, 5-10-1, 7,149.
22, Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., 4-12, 7,148.
23, Patrick Dombrowski, Parma, Ohio, 7-9, 7,093.
24, Connor Pickford, Charlotte, N.C., 1-15, 6,654.