PBA Marathon down to 32

by Bob Johnson 0

All three bowlers in the Player of the Year race remain alive in the PBA Lumber Liquidators Marathon Open at AMF Country Club Lanes in Baltimore entering today's action -- with Walter Ray Williams Jr. in the best position.

See our report in the "Pro Bowling" section for a summary of Player of the Year scenarios.

Meanwhile, here's a report from the PBA on the action in Baltimore...

Defending champion Wes Malott retained a 91-pin lead over fellow Texan Chris Barnes Thursday, but the biggest move was by 50-year-old Walter Ray Williams Jr. in his bid to lock up a record seventh career PBA Player of the Year title.

Malott, who is about to surrender his 2008-09 Player of the Year crown, averaged 234.59 through the first four rounds of the Marathon Open to finish with a 32-game total of 7507. Barnes, who was Player of the Year prior to Malott, had a 7416 total after Thursday’s seven-game rounds on the PBA’s Viper and Chameleon lane conditions. Each is trying for his first title of the 2009-10 season.

But Williams made the boldest move, advancing from 14th place at the start of the day to third place with a 7366 total. The PBA Tour’s all-time leading title winner is seeking his 48th title and third of the season. He also is trying to become the oldest PBA Player of the Year ever.

If successful, he would break a tie with the legendary Earl Anthony, who also is a six-time PBA Player of the Year, for the most Player of the Year titles in PBA history.

Bill O’Neill, currently tied with Williams atop the Player of the Year point list, is still in the picture, but barely survived Thursday’s cut to 32 players in 28th place. Mike Scroggins, who has an outside shot at Player of the Year, jumped from 33rd place to 11th.

Malott’s focus, however, is to hold off Barnes, Williams and a tightly packed field of challengers in his bid for his seventh career title.

“I’m surviving,” Malott said. “The guys at the top are hanging around where I’m at, and the guys in middle are bowling well and bunching up more than I like to see, so Friday I need to bowl better and try to build a bit of a lead so I can relax a little.

“I bowled okay [Thursday], not outstanding by any means,” he added. “I struggled in the Viper round with spares. That’s a funk I’ve been in, but my spare game on the Chameleon pattern [Thursday night] was a whole lot better. Hopefully [Friday] the Scorpion condition will soften up a little and I’ll be able to strike.”

The Lumber Liquidators Marathon Open is a seven-round tournament, with each round bowled on a different lane conditioning pattern. The top 32 survivors after Thursday’s competition are bowling seven games on the Scorpion pattern this morning, after which the field will be cut to the top 24 for another seven games on the Earl Anthony lane condition.

Then field will be trimmed to 16 for a final seven-game round on the Dick Weber condition Saturday morning to determine the top five players after 53 games who will advance to the stepladder finals on ESPN Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern.

The tournament leader will select the lane condition to be used for the TV finals.

Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson has received more national writing awards than any other bowling writer — close to 70 over the course of his 40-year career. He began at age 16 as a staff writer and then assistant editor for the weekly Pacific Bowler newspaper in his native California, and within three years was writing feature stories for Bowlers Journal. He has written for the magazine ever since, except for a five-year span when he was hired as the founding editor of another magazine. He moved to Chicago in 2000 and spent 13 years in the Windy City, including five as Bowlers Journal’s Editor. In 1975, Johnson received the Robert E. Kennedy Award as California’s top undergraduate high school journalist. Five years earlier, on the lanes, he had shared the Bantam Division Doubles championship in the Orange County Junior Bowling Association Championships. Today, he continues to work full-time for Bowlers Journal as its Senior Editor, to write his popular “Strikes Me” column, and to edit Luby Publishing Inc.’s weekly business-to-business Cyber Report.

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