LAS VEGAS - Saying Australian two-hander Jason Belmonte has been dominant at the United States Bowling Congress Masters would be an understatement, and he is on a tear again this week at The Orleans Bowling Center.
The 33-year-old has been around the top of the leaderboard all week, leaving the lanes with the lead in two of the three qualifying rounds, but he'll enter the double-elimination match-play bracket as the No. 2 seed behind Nick Kruml of Downers Grove, Illinois, who ended qualifying Thursday with games of 288 and 266 to secure the top seed.
The two are among the 64 bowlers who advanced to match play, which includes defending champion Anthony Simonsen of Austin, Texas, who qualified 59th.
Kruml, a 23-year-old right-hander, finished the 15 games of qualifying with a 3,594 total, a 239.6 average, and now has made match play in all three of his USBC Masters appearances. He exited with 1-2 records in both 2015 and 2016, and he has been focused on using those experiences to improve in 2017.
Belmonte posted a 3,578 total and was followed by fellow Australian Sam Cooley (3,540), Michael Tang of San Francisco (3,517) and Jesse Buss of Belvidere, Illinois (3,470).
Belmonte's career at the Masters has been beyond remarkable. In 10 previous visits, he has finished in the top 10 six times, including three consecutive wins in 2013, 2014 and 2015. He now has advanced to match play for the 10th time in his 11 appearances, and he's looking to become the event's first four-time winner.
"Now, it's a new tournament, and it becomes a lot more strategic," Belmonte said. "We'll be following our own transition, so there will be some discussion about how I want to play the lanes and how my opponent is thinking about playing them. I just need to be smart, watch the lanes and bowl the best match I can. If I get beat, I'll know my opponent bowled better and earned it."
The final two spots in the bracket were decided by a roll-off after Chad Kloss of Cudahy, Wisconsin, Brandon Novak of Chillicothe, Ohio, and Vernon Peterson of Las Vegas tied for 63rd place at 3,223, a 214.87 average.
The three bowled one game to determine which two would advance and who would go home.
Peterson led the way with a 201 game and was followed by Novak (200) and Kloss (188). Peterson will enter the bracket at No. 63, while Novak goes in at No. 64, earning him an opening-round match with Kruml.
All competitors at The Orleans this week bowled 15 games of qualifying over three days to determine the match-play field. Three-game total pinfall will determine who advances in the bracket.
Match play gets underway Friday at noon Eastern and will continue throughout the day Friday and Saturday to determine the five players for the championship round.
Those five bowlers will compete in the stepladder finals, live on ESPN at 1 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, Feb. 26.
The 2017 Masters features a total prize fund of nearly $300,000 and again is a major event on the PBA Tour. The winner will take home the coveted Masters trophy and $30,000 top prize.
All qualifying and match play rounds of the Masters are being covered live on Xtra Frame, the PBA's online bowling channel. For subscription information, visit PBA.com.
For more information about the USBC Masters, visit BOWL.com/Masters.
2017 USBC MASTERS
At The Orleans Bowling Center, Las Vegas
QUALIFYING - ROUND 3
(15 games - all cashers)
1, Nick Kruml (a), Downers Grove, Ill., 3,594. 2, Jason Belmonte, Australia, 3,578. 3, Sam Cooley, Australia, 3,540. 4, Michael Tang (a), San Francisco, 3,517. 5, Jesse Buss, Belvidere, Ill., 3,470. 6, Thomas Smallwood, Saginaw, Mich., 3,462.
7, Dominic Barrett, United Kingdom, 3,440. 8, EJ Tackett, Huntington, Ind., 3,435. 9, Brad Angelo, Lockport, N.Y., 3,410. 10, Josh Blanchard, Mesa, Ariz., 3,405. 11, Nicholas Pate (a), Inver Grove Heights, Minn., 3,404. 12, Martin Larsen, Sweden, 3,403.
13, Brennan Haugh (a), Faribault, Minn., 3,380. 14, Dick Allen, Columbia, S.C., 3,377. 15, Stuart Williams, England, 3,374. 16, Chris Loschetter, Avon, Ohio, 3,359. 17, Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo., 3,355. 18, Dan Bock (a), Albert Lea, Minn., 3,352.
19, William 'BJ' Moore, Apex, N.C., 3,349. 20, Craig Nidiffer, Trenton, Mich., 3,338. 21(tie), Manuel Otalora, Cooper City, Fla., and Ronnie Sparks, Redford, Mich., 3,337. 23, Steve Pavlinko Jr., Sewell, N.J., 3,336. 24, Lucas Legnani, Argentina, 3,332.
25, Alexander Hoskins (a), Brigham City, Utah, 3,328. 26, Dallas Leong (a), Las Vegas, 3,317. 27, Darren Tang, San Francisco, 3,315. 28, Kristopher Prather, Milton, Fla., 3,309. 29(tie), Ildemaro Ruiz, Venezuela, and Bill O'Neill, Langhorne, Pa., 3,308.
31, Jakob Butturff, Tempe, Ariz., 3,307. 32, Daniel Fransson, Sweden, 3,306. 33(tie), Cotie Holbek (a), Burlington, Wis., and Aaron Lorincz, Belleville, Mich., 3,305. 35, John Szczerbinski, North Tonawanda, N.Y., 3,295. 36, Mike Dole, Loves Park, Ill., 3,288.
37, Eryk Jensen (a), Gresham, Ore., 3,285. 38, Chris Via (a), Springfield, Ohio, 3,284. 39(tie), Sean Lavery-Spahr, Pasadena, Texas, and Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas, 3,273. 41, Wes Malott, Pflugerville, Texas, 3,271. 42(tie), Connor Pickford, Plano, Texas, and Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., 3,270.
44, Mike Wolfe, Floyd Knobs, Ind., 3,269. 45, Francois Lavoie, Wichita, Kan., 3,263. 46, Shuichi Heki, Japan, 3,262. 47, Tom Daugherty, Riverview, Fla., 3,259. 48, Greg Ostrander, Freehold, N.J., 3,253.
49(tie), DeeRonn Booker (a), Anaheim, Calif., and Michael Machuga (a), Erie, Pa., 3,251. 51, Matthew Sanders (a), Evansville, Ind., 3,249. 52, Matt O'Grady, South Amboy, N.J., 3,247. 53, Rhino Page, Orlando, Fla., 3,244. 54, Jalen Mosley (a), Indianapolis, 3,242.
55(tie), Gary Faulkner Jr., Sanford, Fla., and Jesper Svensson, Sweden, 3,234. 57, Jim Pratt, Avondale, Ariz., 3,233. 58, Michael Edwards, Tulsa, Okla., 3,231. 59, Anthony Simonsen, Austin, Texas, 3,230. 60, Nathan Bohr, Austin, Texas, 3,229.
61, Arturo Quintero (a), Mexico, 3,225. 62, Kyle Sherman (a), O'Fallon, Mo., 3,224. 63(tie), Vernon Peterson *(a), Las Vegas, and Brandon Novak*, Chillicothe, Ohio, 3,223.
*Peterson (201), Novak (200) advanced after a one-game roll-off with Kloss (188) after the three tied for 63rd place.
Did not advance:
65, Chad Kloss *(a), Cudahy, Wis., 3,223, $1,400. 66(tie), Jake Peters, Henderson, Nev., and Shawn Maldonado, Houston, 3,221, $1,337. 68, Steve Smith (a), San Diego, 3,220, $1,300. 69(tie), Dwight Adams, Greensboro, N.C., Adam Martinez (a), San Antonio, and Brian Himmler, Cincinnati, 3,216, $1,260.
72, Markus Jansson, Sweden, 3,214, $1,220. 73, Shota Kawazoe, Japan, 3,213, $1,200. 74, Paul Moor, England, 3,210, $1,190. 75, Michael Martell (a), Chicago, 3,208, $1,180. 76, Cody Vaughn (a), Arvada, Colo., 3,206, $1,170.
77(tie), Perry Crowell IV, Hoquiam, Wash., Graham Fach, Canada, and Marshall Kent, Yakima, Wash., 3,205, $1,150. 80, Timothy Foy Jr., Seaford, Del., 3,203, $1,130. 81, Andres Gomez, Hollywood, Fla., 3,202, $1,120. 82, Hunter Kempton (a), Buzzards Bay, Mass., 3,195, $1,110. 83, Mitch Hupe (a), Wichita, Kan., 3,194, $1,100.
84, Andrew Cain, Phoenix, 3,191, $1,075. 85, Greg Thompson Jr., San Jose, Calif., 3,188, $1,055. 86, Daria Pajak, Babson Park, Fla., 3,187, $1,040. 87, Casey Shephard (a), Kalamazoo, Mich., 3,186, $1,030. 88, Tyson Branagan (a), Fort Worth, Texas, 3,183, $1,025. 89, Brad Miller, Raytown, Mo., 3,181, $1,020.
90(tie), Osku Palermaa, Finland, and Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 3,174, $1,012. 92, Walid Letayf (a), Mexico, 3,172, $1,005. 93, Carlos Tobon, Hollywood, Fla., 3,169, $1,000. 94(tie), Danielle McEwan, Stony Point, N.Y., Alejandro Prats, Dominican Republic, and Ryan Zagar (a), Kenosha, Wis., 3,168, $990.
97(tie), Bryon Smith, Roseburg, Ore., and Chad Nelson (a), Owatonna, Minn., 3,167, $977. 99, John Conaway (a), El Mirage, Ariz., 3,166, $970.
Perfect games (4) - DeeRonn Booker, Anaheim, Calif. (Round 1); John Squire, Canada; Ryan Powers, Portage, Mich.; Dallas Leong, Las Vegas (Round 3).