Australia's Jason Belmonte has been the man to beat by a wide margin this week at the 2013 Lipton Bowling's U.S. Open, but along with the top seed for match play, his success also earned him a target on his back.
Belmonte used the new Roto Grip Deranged Thursday night.
The two-hander's opponents struck early often during the first block of round-robin matches Thursday night at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl and out-averaged him 231-202, while cutting his lead from 449 pins to 172.
Pete Weber of St. Ann, Mo., and Roto Grip's Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas, each posted 7-1 records and sit second and third, respectively, with 8,516 and 8,499. Team USA member Marshall Kent of Yakima, Wash., is fourth with 8,309
Roto Grip's Stu Williams made a huge move Thursday night and is currently in fifth place.
"Heading into matchplay, I really liked our chances," said Storm National Tour Representative Del Ballard Jr. "We have the numbers, four out of the top five women and I can't even tell you how many of the top ten men. Our chances look good, but you know matchplay is a new day, a new tournament, and you've got to win matches."
Defending champion Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J., and two-time U.S Women's Open winner Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y., have split time at the top of the women's leaderboard all week, but after eight games of match play, Kulick is out front with an 8,221 total. Johnson is second with 8,157, Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, N.Y., is third with 8,033 and United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer Leanne Hulsenberg of Roseville, Calif., is fourth with 7,839.
Roto Grip's Shannon Pluhowsky is 6th while fellow staffer Carolyn Dorin-Ballard is in 23rd place.
Match play will continue Friday with two more eight-game rounds at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. EDT, after which, the top four bowlers in each division will advance to the TV finals.
The combined events have a prize fund of more than $400,000 and will culminate with the live two-hour ESPN telecast on Saturday at noon EDT.
The men's and women's champions will face off in a special Battle of the Sexes match to crown the ultimate U.S. Open winner. The special match will be broadcast live on ESPN immediately following the men's and women's finals.
The 2013 Lipton Bowling's U.S. Open started with nearly 400 of the best men and women bowlers in the world, competing side by side (in separate events) at three Columbus-area bowling centers - Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl, Columbus Western Bowl and Holiday Lanes.
It took an average of 207.57 to make match play on the men's side and 195.23 to make the cut in the women's division.
For more information on the U.S. Open, visit BowlingsUSOpen.com. Live streaming of qualifying and match play are being provided by the PBA's Xtra Frame service.