It’s almost cliché to say that the cream rises to the top of PBA major championships, but the platitude came to fruition on Thursday at the U.S. Open presented by GoBowling.

With a total pinfall of 8,944 (+944), Anthony Simonsen continues to lead the season’s second major through 40 games.

Following the first round of match play on Thursday evening, a quartet of major champions joined 27-year-old Simonsen in the top five.

Kyle Troup, Bill O’Neill, defending champion EJ Tackett and Jason Belmonte round out the top five. Belmonte holds a 53-pin advantage over sixth-placed Marshall Kent. Sam Cooley sits in seventh place, more than 130 pins behind fifth.

After Friday’s final 16 games of match play, the top five players will advance to the championship round, which will be held Sunday at 4 p.m. Eastern on FOX.

“The more games we bowl, the better players tend to rise to the top,” Tackett said. “That's just the way it's always been. You give us more opportunity and the guys get up there. Typically, some of the best players are the better spare shooters and in a tournament like the U.S. Open there's a premium on spare shooting. Those two things are what makes the difference in long formats.”

Simonsen, who won the 2016 USBC Masters and 2022 U.S. Open also held at Indianapolis’ Royal Pin Woodland, said his experience in the venue has contributed to his success.

“I have an understanding of what my balls do here. I'm not necessarily trying to find the magic ball, just using the ones that I think work best in the moment,” Simonsen said.

Simonsen holds a 158-pin lead over Kyle Troup for the top seed, which he said would be huge to earn.

“It's always nice to only have to bowl one game to win,” Simonsen said. “There's a lot of bowling left, so I’m going to keep trucking along, take each eight-game block as its own and just see where that gets me.”

Though Troup knocked off Simonsen in the final game of match play on Thursday, cutting his deficit by over 100 pins, Troup said he wasn’t concerned about making up ground on the tournament leader.

“I don't expect anybody else to lead this tournament but [Simonsen] because he's an absolute freak,” Troup said.

Troup finished as the runner-up to EJ Tackett a year ago. He said the event served as a motivating factor entering the season, but not anymore.

“It’s so hard to make the show here. I can't be trying to fuel the fire from something that happened last year,” Troup said. “My goal is to keep my emotions in check, stay present and see where I end up on the leaderboard.”

O’Neill finished yesterday’s third round of qualifying at +14, convinced he would be heading home.

“After I got done bowling yesterday morning, I'm like I'm gonna be short (of the cut),” O’Neill said. “I just didn't bowl good enough and I'm just gonna be short, you know, it's just one of those weeks.”

The cut eventually fell to +13, allowing O’Neill to sneak into the advancers round on Thursday morning. Last month’s PBA Players Championship winner took full advantage, shooting 1,826 for the eight-game advancer round to rise into 11th place. 

During the first round of match play, O’Neill continued his rise, compiling a 7-1 record and climbing into third place.

Tackett, who spent much of the tournament just inside the initial cut of 36th place, made a similar surge up the standings. The reigning PBA Player of the Year said he noticed an issue with his physical game Thursday morning.

“I think I was getting a little forward with my upper body,” Tackett said. “I made myself feel a little taller at the line and got my swing a little flatter at the bottom and I feel like I bowled way better today than I did throughout the whole week. It's crazy how something so small can make such a big difference.”

It’s a surprise to few to see Tackett, who led each of the past two U.S. Opens, make a run while competing on the tournament's fourth oil pattern. But there has been one glaring difference for Tackett during this year’s tournament. 

His sleepiest fan, his six-week-old son “Tripp,” has helped Tackett persevere through the grueling week of competition.

“When I walk back between shots and see him, it’s impossible not to be happy,” Tackett said.

Match play continues on Friday at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern. All rounds will be livestreamed on BowlTV.

More information on the 2024 U.S. Open is available here.

Match Play Round 1 Leaders

  1. Anthony Simonsen, 8,944 (+944)
  2. Kyle Troup, 8,786 (+786)
  3. Bill O’Neill, 8,745 (+745)
  4. EJ Tackett, 8,656 (+656)
  5. Jason Belmonte, 8,645 (+645)
  6. Marshall Kent, 8,592 (+592)
  7. Sam Cooley, 8,513 (+513)
  8. Tom Daugherty, 8,464 (+464)
  9. Matt Russo, 8,453 (+453)
  10. Tom Smallwood, 8,431 (+431)

Full standings are available here.

U.S. Open Schedule

Royal Pin Woodland | Indianapolis, IN

All times Eastern

Friday, Feb. 2 | Match Play
10 a.m. — Match Play Round 2
5 p.m. — Match Play Round 3

Top five players advance to stepladder finals

Saturday, Feb. 3
4 p.m. — PBA Elite League Round 2 — Tickets

Waco Wonders vs. Motown Muscle; Portland Lumberjacks vs. New Jersey KingPins

Sunday, Feb. 4
4 p.m. — U.S. Open Finals — Sold out


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