2022 US Open Top 5 Bowlers Set for Finals, Belmo Looks for 15th Major

INDIANAPOLIS – EJ Tackett of Bluffton, Indiana, hasn’t been any lower than second in the standings this week at the 2022 U.S. Open, and his consistency will be rewarded Sunday with a chance to bowl for $100,000, the event’s iconic green jacket and a major title on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour.

The 29-year-old right-hander moved into the lead during the third round of qualifying and held off some of the world’s best bowlers for another 32 games to lock up the top seed for the TV finals, which will air live on Fox Sports’ FS1 at 5 p.m. Eastern as part of the 2022 PBA Tour television schedule.

Tackett is a 14-time PBA Tour champion, including a pair of majors – the 2016 PBA World Championship and 2017 PBA Tournament of Champions. A win Sunday at Woodland Bowl would make him the eighth player in history to complete the PBA Triple Crown.

On the way to the No. 1 spot for the show, Tackett patiently navigated four oil patterns using a range of Motiv bowling balls, ranging from 37-45 feet, over five days and 56 games. He averaged 227 and posted a 19-5 record in 24 head-to-head matches on the way to a 13,282 pinfall total, which included 30 bonus pins for each win in match play.

He’ll be joined in the championship round by No. 2 Anthony Simonsen of Las Vegas (12,780), No. 3 AJ Johnson of Oswego, Illinois (12,749), No. 4 Jake Peters of Henderson, Nevada (12,654), and Australia’s Jason Belmonte (12,569) in the No. 5 spot.

“I just wanted to get out to a good start this last round, and I didn’t, but I was able to come back with some good games and close out a few close matches, which really got the momentum going,” Tackett said. “I threw some great shots when I needed them and managed to pick up seven more wins. The last couple of games, I was able to relax a little bit, my swing was loose and it was a lot of fun.”

Peters and Belmonte will bowl in the opening match, with the winner advancing to meet Johnson in the traditional stepladder format. Simonsen will take on the winner of Match 2, and the last man standing will face Tackett in the final.

Tackett is looking to become the third top seed since 2015, and second consecutive, to claim the U.S. Open title.

He has a split record in a handful of opportunities as the top qualifier in PBA Tour majors, but he has learned a lot in his decade among the sport’s elite about how to handle the moment. He’s familiar with how his body reacts when he’s under the TV lights and what his tendencies might be in certain situations.

Winning this week would be even more special because the tournament is being held in his home state and in a bowling center that has been part of the PBA’s storied history for decades.

“I just need to get focused right from practice and block out everything outside of what I need to do to be successful for one more game,” said Tackett, whose best finish at the U.S. Open was a fourth-place effort in 2018. “I have a job to do, so I have to go out there and try to do the best I can, one shot at a time. I want to bowl a good game and hopefully have an opportunity to win. Nothing about winning is ever easy, and I expect to have to work very hard. All I ask for at the end is an opportunity to win this championship.”

While Tackett was on cruise control during match play Friday and Saturday, leading by more than 200 pins, the rest of the stepladder hopefuls were involved in a continuous game of leapfrog.

Heading into the final round of match play Saturday night, it looked like it would be a five-player race for the four remaining spots on TV, with Johnson as the outlier by just 16 pins.

By the time the position round rolled around seven games later, PBA Hall of Famer and past U.S. Open champion Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, South Carolina, and Australia’s Sam Cooley had rallied from 245 and 300 pins back, respectively, which was eighth and 11th after 48 games.

Jones entered the final game of the event in seventh place, 30 pins out of the show, and Cooley was a distant, but reachable, 100 pins back. Tom Daugherty of Riverview, Florida, had dropped from fourth place to sixth during the last block and was 14 pins behind fifth place.

The fifth spot for the championship round was determined in the final frame, with Belmonte delivering a mark in his win over Daugherty to hold off Jones, who ended up 33 pins back and sixth overall.

Along with Tackett looking to add his name to the list of Triple Crown winners, the storylines among the five remaining players are plentiful.

Simonsen, the runner-up to Belmonte at the 2020 U.S. Open, is looking to become the youngest bowler in history with three major titles. He won the 2016 United States Bowling Congress Masters at Woodland Bowl and won the 2019 PBA Players Championship. He will be 25 years and 31 days old on Sunday.

Johnson is searching for his first PBA Tour title. He has been the runner-up on the PBA Tour on multiple occasions, including at the 2015 USBC Masters, where he lost to Belmonte.

Peters, who won the PBA Badger Open in 2013 for his lone PBA Tour title, has made an inspired return to full-time competition, following the death of his wife, Melissa, in May 2021. Her 35th birthday would’ve been Saturday.

Peters recently made adult Team USA for the first time and started the season with a TV appearance in the PBA Players Championship West Region Finals, where he finished third.

Belmonte won the West Region Finals, defeating Peters along the way, and went on to win the whole event for his record-extending 14th major victory. If Belmonte can win the 2022 U.S. Open on Sunday, he’ll be the first player in history to complete the PBA Super Slam twice.

His U.S. Open win in 2020 helped him join PBA and USBC Hall of Famer Mike Aulby as the only two players to complete the feat once. It includes the U.S. Open, PBA Tournament of Champions, PBA World Championship, PBA Players Championship and USBC Masters. Belmonte has 26 PBA Tour titles overall.

All rounds of qualifying and match play this week were broadcast live at BowlTV.com.

All 108 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 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 is a collaborative effort between USBC and the Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America. The total prize fund for the event will be $282,000.

The last time the event awarded a six-figure prize to the champion was 2009.

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