POY race down to 2

by Bob Johnson 0

Defending champion Wes Malott slipped to third place with one game to go, but rallied in the final game Friday night to regain the lead in the PBA's Lumber Liquidators Marathon Open at AMF Country Club Lanes in Baltimore.

With seven games remaining this morning on the Dick Weber lane pattern, however, the race for the five spots on Sunday’s ESPN telecast remains wide open, and the battle for the 2009-10 Chris Schenkel Player of the Year title now boils down to two players who are hot on each other’s heels.

Malott, who entered Friday's action with a 91-pin lead over Chris Barnes, escaped the Scorpion and Earl Anthony rounds with a 45-pin lead over Pete Weber, who started the day in 13th place.

Malott has averaged 230.74 for 46 games on six different lane conditions for a 10,614 total. Weber, who rolled the event’s 10th 300 game Friday morning, had 10,559, and is making a bid for his first title since the 2007 U.S. Open.

Brad Angelo was third with 10,557, followed by Tommy Jones at 10,507 and Barnes with 10,506. No player among the top five has won a title this season.

Fewer than 20 pins behind the five front-runners are Mike Scroggins and Walter Ray Williams Jr., the two remaining contenders in the Player of the Year race. They were only seven pins apart.

Bill O’Neill, who is tied with Williams for the Player of the Year points lead, was eliminated from contention when he finished 20th and failed to advance to today's Weber round. Should he and Williams remain tied on that list, Player of the Year would be decided by the tour's main points list, on which Williams is well ahead of O'Neill.

Scroggins, who started the day in 11th place, can win Player of the Year if he wins the Marathon Open and Williams finishes lower than second. In any other scenario, the 50-year-old Williams would earn Player of the Year honors for a record seventh time and become the oldest player ever to win the title.

For a look at the various Player of the Year scenarios going into this week's tournament, see the Pro Bowling section. For complete Marathon Open standings entering today's final round before the TV cut, go to pba.com.

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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