Simonsen Wins 2022 U.S. Open for Third Major Title
By Matt Cannizzaro, USBC Communications
INDIANAPOLIS - Almost six years after making history at Woodland Bowl, Anthony Simonsen of Las Vegas was back to claim another spot in the bowling record book, this time by winning the 2022 U.S. Open for his third major title on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour.
Simonsen defeated top seed EJ Tackett of nearby Bluffton, Indiana, 232-165, to become the youngest bowler in history to win three majors. It marked Simonsen's ninth PBA Tour win overall.
The victory came live on Fox Sports' FS1 as part of the 2022 PBA Tour television schedule and also earned Simonsen a $100,000 top prize and the event's iconic green jacket. Tackett earned $50,000 as the runner-up.
At 25 years and 31 days old, Simonsen bested the previous mark of 25 years and 43 days, set by United States Bowling Congress and PBA Hall of Famer Dave Davis more than five decades ago.
Simonsen had the opportunity to break the record on the U.S. Open stage in 2020, where he was the top seed for the TV show, but he fell to Australia's Jason Belmonte.
Including Simonsen's win over Tackett on Sunday, the top qualifier at the U.S. Open has been defeated six times since 2015.
"It was a long two years to wait after losing the title match in 2020 and then not bowling last year, so there certainly was some redemption in being able to win this time," Simonsen said. "It also is big because of how the season started at this year's (PBA) Players Championship. I didn't feel like I bowled all that great, but I didn't bowl terribly, either. It's good to be moving in the right direction as the season gets going."
On the way to the win over Tackett, Simonsen struck six times in his first seven frames to put the game out of reach. Tackett, a 29-year-old right-hander and 14-time PBA Tour champion, opened four times in the first eight frames.
Tackett's resume includes two majors - the 2016 PBA World Championship and 2017 PBA Tournament of Champions - and he was looking to become the eighth bowler in history to complete the PBA Triple Crown.
"I had a couple different ball choices, and I went with the one that got me there," Tackett said. "This particular time, on that particular pair, it wasn't the right one. I think the ball I threw was just a little bit too early, which forced me to throw it too far to the right. I just made the wrong ball choice, and that happens."
In 2016, a month past his 19th birthday, Simonsen won the USBC Masters to become the PBA Tour's youngest major champion. That win came shortly after the death of his mother, so it carried a little extra meaning for the young two-hander, who grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
This time, Simonsen again arrived at Woodland Bowl with a heavy heart, following the recent loss of his father, and it's something he did think about once he was on-site.
"My mom passed a couple months prior to us bowling the Masters here, and I came away with the win, and my dad passed away a couple of months ago, so coming back, I had a weird feeling this week in regards to that," Simonsen said. "And, it's a center I'm comfortable in, with some past success, so that always plays into it. That comfort definitely was a key to my success this week."
Simonsen, whose second major title was the 2019 PBA Players Championship, entered Sunday's stepladder as the No. 2 seed, 502 pins behind Tackett after 56 games of qualifying and match play across four oil patterns. It marked the fifth time since the U.S. Open's 2015 return from a one-year hiatus, that the top seed led by more than 270 pins and did not win. In 2020, Simonsen finished 362 pins ahead of the field.
"Yes, leading by 500 is all grand, but it doesn't matter," Tackett said. "It doesn't mean anything. This is what means something. I didn't do it. The positive is, I led by 500 over the best bowlers in the world. I know I'm bowling well, but I have to figure out what to do to win."
To earn the meeting with Tackett, Simonsen survived a rematch with Belmonte, who won the season-opening PBA Players Championship for his record-extending 14th PBA major win and 26th title overall.
In the low-scoring semifinal, Simonsen outlasted the Australian two-hander, 180-168, with a ninth-frame ball change sparking his run to the title. The two combined for five open frames, which included two washouts, two splits and a chopped 6-10 combination from Simonsen early in the match.
Simonsen and Belmonte were separated by one pin after nine frames. Simonsen finished first and delivered three strikes in his final frame to force Belmonte to do the same for a one-pin victory. The 38-year-old missed the headpin to the right on his first offering and left the 1-2-4 combination to fall short.
A win Sunday for Belmonte would've made him the first player in history to complete the PBA Super Slam twice. His win over Simonsen at the 2020 U.S. Open allowed him to achieve the feat for the first time, matching USBC and PBA Hall of Famer Mike Aulby.
The Super Slam includes the U.S. Open, PBA Tournament of Champions, PBA World Championship, PBA Players Championship and Masters.
Belmonte entered the championship round Sunday as the fifth seed and defeated No. 4 Jake Peters of Henderson, Nevada, and No. 3 AJ Johnson of Oswego, Illinois, to set up the meeting with Simonsen.
Against Johnson, Belmonte needed to spare a 10 pin in his final frame and get one pin on the fill ball to advance to the semifinal. He was successful and moved on, 221-212.
Johnson is a six-time runner-up in PBA Tour competition, the first of which came against Belmonte at the 2015 Masters. He did later pick up a win against the world's best at the 2019 Korea PBA SamHo Cup, but that was a non-title event.
In the opening match Sunday, Belmonte struck three times in the first four frames, and seven times overall, to cruise to a 246-198 victory over Peters.
Peters won his lone PBA Tour title in 2013 and was in search of his first major victory. He was not able to record a strike in the second half of the game and was slowed by a washout in the seventh frame that he was unable to convert.
All rounds of qualifying and match play this week were broadcast live at BowlTV.com.
The 108 U.S. Open entrants bowled 24 games over three days and three oil patterns, before the field was cut to the top 36 for the eight-game Cashers' Round on a fourth oil pattern.
After 32 games, total pinfall determined the 24 bowlers for round-robin match play, and total pinfall for 56 games, including bonus pins for each match won, decided the five players for the stepladder.
The fourth oil pattern was used for the Cashers' Round, match play and the TV show.
The field at Woodland Bowl was made up of the sport's top performers in recent seasons. It included the leaders on the PBA Tour points list, Team USA and Junior Team members, top performers at USBC events and PBA majors, and those who advanced from an on-site pre-tournament qualifier last weekend.
The 2022 U.S. Open was a collaborative effort between USBC and the Bowling Proprietors' Association of America. The total prize fund for the event was $282,000.
The last time the event awarded a six-figure prize to the champion was 2009.