Anthony Simonsen Rewrites History at the Masters
Those in the crowd at Thunderbowl Lanes for the 2023 USBC Masters knew they were witnessing history, even absurdity.
To Anthony Simonsen, the man who spectators watched steamroll any and all competition en route to a second straight Masters title, it was just another day at the office.
“I’ve always try to pride myself on it’s just another shot,” Simonsen said from the penthouse of Thunderbowl’s arena bay. “I try to make it simple, really. It’s just another game of bowling and I’ve done it a thousand times.”
On Sunday afternoon, Simonsen repeated as Masters champion to claim his third Masters and fifth career major title. He’s one of four players to win back-to-back Masters and one of three players to win three Masters titles.
Just as he was the youngest to win one, two, three and four career major titles, Simonsen became the youngest to win five. The 26-year-old is the only player to win five majors before the age of 30.
“I don't really look at the age thing,” Simonsen said. “For me, it's just bowling. I've been out here now almost 10 years, it’s just putting my head down and trying to keep bowling as well as I possibly can.”
Last week, Simonsen redefined what “bowling as well as I possibly can” meant.
The two-hander bowled 34 games at the Masters, averaging nearly 236. However, he spent most of qualifying (the first 15 games) experimenting; as the defending champion, he was guaranteed a spot in the 64-player match play field.
The next 18 games, an undefeated romp through the bracket, will be talked about for years to come.
Simonsen set a new Masters record with a 250.4 match play average, shattering the previous record (Norm Duke’s 245.6 established in 1993), according to USBC.
He struck on 71.8% of his shots during match play, according to Lanetalk. He was almost twice as likely to start a string of six in a row (nine) than have an open frame (five).
Over his last eight games before the TV show, Simonsen averaged 263.13.
Here are Anthony Simonsen's scores during the last eight games of match play, powered by @LanetalkBowling.— PBA Tour (@PBATour) April 2, 2023
As if dethroning the defending USBC Masters champion wouldn't be difficult enough, whoever meets him in the title match will need to beat him twice.
📺: 1 p.m. ET on FOX pic.twitter.com/qZtWLdi3lR
Michael Martell experienced the sheer force of Simonsen closer than anyone. He was the opposition, figuratively speaking, when Simonsen shot 266-279-300 for an 845 series, striking on 34 of 36 shots, to earn the No. 1 seed.
On Sunday, Martell defeated Kyle Sherman in the semifinal to set up a rematch in the championship match. The 25-year-old Martell, making his PBA Tour television debut, kept pace with the still-red-hot Simonsen for most of the match.
“Even going into that 10th frame, I thought anything was possible. He could split. He's human, although he didn't look like it at times this week,” Martell said.
Martell’s split in the seventh frame gave Simonsen all the breathing room he needed — well, “needed” feels excessive.
“He's the best bowler in the world," Martell said. "I gave him one opening and he took full advantage.”
Simonsen rarely looked challenged throughout match play. Just one three-game match — a nine-pin victory over Keven Williams — was decided by fewer than 60 pins.
In the second round against Dallas Leong, Simonsen fell behind by 56 pins after Game 1. Ten frames later, Simonsen led by 52.
The Masters continued what has the makings of a career season for Simonsen. In eight tournaments this season, Simonsen has:
- 8 top-10 finishes (Tour best)
- 6 top-five finishes (Tour best)
- 5 championship round appearances (Tied-Tour best)
- 3 championship matches (2nd on Tour)
- 2 titles (2nd on Tour)
- 4.13 average finish (Tour best)
Through about half of the 2023 season, Simonsen leads the Tour in points, while Tackett holds the advantage in titles, earnings and average.
Simonsen has finished fourth, third and first in the season’s three majors. EJ Tackett won the U.S. Open and Jason Belmonte took home the Tournament of Champions crown.
“Week to week when we bowl a major, I think the three of us all know that one of us is going to be striking a bunch and (the others) are kind of playing chase,” Simonsen said.
The chase continues with four titles, including a major, to be awarded at the upcoming World Series of Bowling XIV.