DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -Team USA's Danielle McEwan is the defending champion in singles this week at the 2021 International Bowling Federation Super World Championships, and she cleared the first hurdle in her title defense by making the cut to match play Monday night.
The 30-year-old right-hander struggled at times during the 10 games of qualifying to keep up with the scoring pace on the tournament's 44-foot oil pattern, but a 244 finish gave her the push she needed to make sure she was among the 32 bowlers in the next round.
McEwan was tied for 23rd among the 92 women on the lanes at the Dubai International Bowling Centre, and she hopes to use the event's new format as a tool that will help her successfully defend her title and claim her sixth gold medal in World Championships competition.
She averaged 214.9 across the two days and finished with a 2,149 total, which now will be erased as the competitors head into round-robin match play, which will get underway Wednesday, after another day of doubles competition.
Team USA's Kelly Kulick, the singles winner at the 1999 IBF Super World Championships, posted five games blocks of 1,218 and 1,261 to pace the women's field this week with a 2,479 total, a 247.9 average.
Verity Crawley of England qualified second with 2,397 and was followed by Singapore's Cherie Tan (2,374) and a pair of Swedish players, Joline Persson Planefors (2,372) and Cajsa Wegner (2,359).
Team USA's Missy Parkin was ninth with 2,261, and Jordan Richard was 17th with 2,218. It took an average of 208.8 over two days and 10 games to make the first singles cut.
"The first half of singles qualifying, we got a really good feel for what the lanes were doing, and I had the right ball motion, but I just couldn't strike," McEwan said. "Today kind of started off the same, even with some surface changes, angle changes, different hand positions and all the other little tweaks I could think of trying. After Game 2, we talked about staying aggressive and changing my picture and how I was attacking the lane, and it made all the difference."
Three of the four Team USA members in the men's field advanced to match play, and that included Jakob Butturff in fourth place with a 2,376 total, Kristopher Prather in 13th place with 2,308 and AJ Johnson in a tie for 30th place with 2,235.
The final member of the team, Andrew Anderson, finished 53rd with a 2,152 total and failed to make the cut. He was a singles bronze medalist at the 2018 World Men's Championships in Hong Kong.
The overall leader on the men's side was Swedish left-hander Jesper Svensson, who averaged 258.8 on the way to a 2,588 total. He was followed by Saudi Arabia's Abdulrahman Alkheliwi (2,465), Lithuania's Laurynas Narusis (2,394), Butturff and Korea's Kang Heewon (2,371).
It took an average of 222.7 to advance to match play in the 133-player men's field, and there will be a roll-off for the final spot in match play, after two competitors tied for 32nd place.
Monday was a long day for Johnson, who thought his roller-coaster performance over the two days would leave him shy of the cut number.
The two-time World Championships participant averaged 264 for his first three games of singles but just 205.8 over the next seven. He left the lanes Monday thinking a 7-10 split late in his final game would be his undoing, but he, too, will have an opportunity to take advantage of the new format.
"Today hasn't been fun, and I never like playing the waiting game," said Johnson, who bowled on the first of Monday's four squads. "I struggled to figure out some of the pairs we saw, and I had trouble carrying at times, too. I was fortunate to have a great start and then did my best to hold on. I finished with a number I didn't think was safe, especially with as much as everyone has been striking, but it turned out to be enough. There were a lot of guys on the last squad who had a chance to get around me, so I was fortunate and plan to take advantage."
The 32 bowlers in each gender classification now will be divided into four groups, each with eight bowlers, pinfall will drop and they'll all bowl seven games of round-robin match play within their assigned pods.
Points will be awarded for each win in match play, and the top two bowlers in each group, based on points, will advance to the bracket-style quarterfinals.
The quarterfinals and semifinals will be one-game matches, and the championship match will be a best-of-two battle, with a ninth- and 10th-frame roll-off being used if a third game is needed.
Previously, pinfall from a six-game qualifying round determined the four bowlers advancing to the bracket-style medal round.
"Starting from zero is the best news, and the goal now is to win matches," McEwan said. "For the way the week has started out for me, the new format definitely is playing in my favor, and I'm hoping to take advantage. I think we'll continue to learn and improve as a team because we have the best minds out here, and things will get better and better."
McEwan defeated her teammate, Shannon O'Keefe, to win the singles gold medal at the 2019 World Women's Championships. It was the fifth title at the event for McEwan, who also earned gold medals in doubles, trios, team and all-events.
The only discipline she never won was the tournament-ending Masters event, which now is defunct. Instead, she can add a win in the new mixed team event to her wish list.
Malaysia's Rafiq Ismail is the reigning world champion in men's singles, and he qualified 11th on Monday in Dubai.
Competition at the Dubai International Bowling Centre now will shift back to doubles, and both genders will be back on the lanes Tuesday for match play, which will follow the same format as singles.
Doubles qualifying was held Sunday, and all four Team USA tandems advanced.
The 2021 IBF Super World Championships also will feature trios, team and mixed team, all of which will use a variation of the Baker format. Additional medals will be awarded to the most valuable athletes and top-performing federations.
The IBF Super World Championships is the first of three events being held in Dubai, concluding Nov. 15. It will be joined by the inaugural IBF Para Bowling World Championships and followed by the IBF Masters (formerly Senior) World Championships.
IBF is providing livestream coverage and complete results at StrikeCloud.com.
For more information about IBF, visit bowling.sport.