MOORESVILLE, N.C. - After 56 games over five days, five competitors have advanced to the championship round of the 2019 U.S. Open.
The quintet conquered four challenging oil patterns at Victory Lanes and now will battle for the for the $30,000 top prize, coveted green jacket and final major championship on the 2019 Professional Bowlers Association Tour schedule live on CBS Sports Network on Wednesday at 8 p.m. Eastern.
The standings seemed to be on a continuous spin cycle throughout the final round of match play Tuesday evening, with three different people topping the leaderboard during the eight-game block.
Sean Rash of Montgomery, Illinois, a 14-time PBA Tour champion, spent the most time out in front and held a 60-pin advantage over 2016 U.S. Open champion Francois Lavoie of Canada heading into the day-ending position round.
Though Lavoie was able to win the position-round matchup, 217-211, Rash had enough of a lead to claim the top seed for the TV stepladder by 24 pins.
Lavoie held on for the No. 2 spot, which is the same place he qualified the year he won. He and Rash will be joined on the show by Australia's Jason Belmonte, Bill O'Neill of Langhorne, Pennsylvania, and Anthony Simonsen of Little Elm, Texas. All five are major champions.
"I have one game to bowl for a title, which is something I've done six, seven or eight times this year, and it's a great feeling," said Rash, who was the No. 1 seed for both of his major titles - the 2007 United States Bowling Congress Masters and 2012 PBA Tournament of Champions. "There's four unbelievable players on the show with me, all major champions, so it's going to be an amazing show. I'm extremely happy right now, but there's still so much left to do."
Rash, who set the pace through 32 games of qualifying and led the final 24 players into the match-play portion of the event, finished with a 56-game pinfall total of 12,379, which included 30 bonus pins for each of his 12 wins in match play. He started match play with seven consecutive losses.
Lavoie finished with a 12,355 total, Belmonte closed with a 266-233 win over Houston's Shawn Maldonado to jump from fifth place to third (12,312), O'Neill finished with 12,303 and Simonsen held on to the final spot with 12,261, just 27 pins ahead of Maldonado.
"Tonight was very much needed and something I felt was coming," said Belmonte, a 22-time PBA Tour champion. "I finished the second round with 279 and realized that game put me back in contention. I was about 100 out of the show and thought I could get there with a couple good games in a row. Through the middle of the last block, I did some of the best bowling I've done in a really long time."
The star-studded stepladder includes some amazing storylines.
Rash is looking for his third title of 2019 and third career major. A win would make Lavoie the first foreign-born player to win the event twice, while he and O'Neill, the 2010 winner, both have a chance to become the 12th bowler in history to win multiple times.
Belmonte and Simonsen both have found the winner's circle in majors this season. Belmonte won the PBA Tournament of Champions and PBA World Series of Bowling X PBA World Championship, and he was the runner-up to Simonsen at the 2019 PBA Players Championship.
Belmonte's win at the 2019 PBA World Championship was the 11th major victory of his career and moved him past PBA Hall of Famers Earl Anthony and Pete Weber on the all-time list. They each own 10 major titles.
Simonsen, who along with O'Neill has won twice this year, is looking to become the youngest player with three majors - he also won the 2016 Masters - and Belmonte is hoping to extend his record. The U.S. Open is the major that has eluded him. The Australian's best finish at the event was a second-place effort in 2013.
"This has put me in a position to have a crack at No. 12, and I'm excited and nervous and can't wait to get out there and leave it all on the lanes," said Belmonte, a four-time champion in 2019. "I'll give it everything I've got, and if the pins want to fall, it'll be my year. I know there will be plenty more U.S. Opens, but I'm kind of hoping they fall for me this time."
Defending champion Dom Barrett of England also made match play this week and finished 14th, one spot ahead of 2017 champion Rhino Page of Orlando, Florida.
The field this week started with 144 players, all of whom bowled 24 games of qualifying over three days (eight games each day). Each round featured a different oil pattern, and a fourth lane condition was introduced for the cashers' round, match play and championship round.
All rounds leading up to the TV show were broadcast live at BowlTV.com and simulcast on FloBowling.
The U.S. Open is conducted jointly by USBC and the Bowling Proprietors' Association of America.
For more information on the U.S. Open, visit BOWL.com/USOpen.
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2019 U.S. Open
At Victory Lanes, Mooresville, N.C.
(56 games, 30 bonus pins for a win, 15 bonus pins for a tie)
1, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 12-12-0, 12,379. 2, Francois Lavoie, Wichita, Kan., 15-8-1, 12,355. 3, Jason Belmonte, Australia, 13-11-0, 12,312. 4, Bill O'Neill, Langhorne, Pa., 13-10-1, 12,303. 5, Anthony Simonsen, Princeton, Texas, 14-10-0, 12,261.
TELEVISED STEPLADDER FINALS
(Will be live Wednesday on CBS Sports Network at 8 p.m. Eastern)
Match No. 1: O'Neill vs. Simonsen
Match No. 2: Belmonte vs. Match No. 1 winner
Semifinal: Lavoie vs. Match No. 2 winner
Final: Rash vs. semifinal winner
DID NOT ADVANCE:
6, Shawn Maldonado, Houston, 15-9-0, 12,234. 7, Chris Barnes, Double Oak, Texas, 18-6-0, 12,221. 8, Tom Daugherty, Riverview, Fla., 14-10-0, 12,207. 9, Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., 13-11-0, 12,169. 10, Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., 12-12-0, 12,121. 11, Chris Via, Springfield, Ohio, 11-11-2, 12,105. 12, Jesper Svensson, Sweden, 12-12-0, 12,087.
13, Thomas Larsen, Denmark, 13-11-0, 11,993. 14, Dominic Barrett, England, 12-12-0, 11,991. 15, Rhino Page, Orlando, Fla., 12-12-0, 11,958. 16, AJ Johnson, Oswego, Ill., 11-13-0, 11,920. 17, Kim Bolleby, Thailand, 11-12-1, 11,899. 18, Kyle Sherman, O'Fallon, Mo., 11-12-1, 11,860.
19, Brandon Novak, Chillicothe, Ohio, 10-14-0, 11,838. 20, Kristopher Prather, Plainfield, Ill., 8-16-0, 11,797. 21, Greg Ostrander (a), Freehold, N.J., 11-12-1, 11,764. 22, Martin Larsen, Sweden, 7-17-0, 11,612. 23, Thomas Smallwood, Saginaw, Mich., 8-16-0, 11,542. 24, Marshall Kent, Yakima, Wash., 8-15-1, 11,494.