Field set for match play at 2019 U.S. Open, Prather seeking redemption


With each year that passes in Kristopher Prather's bowling career, the spotlight on him seems to be getting bigger and brighter.

This year has been particularly special for the 27-year-old right-hander, whose breakout season has included his first Professional Bowlers Association Tour title, a PBA League championship and a monumental win in the inaugural PBA Playoffs.

Leading up to his memorable run in 2019, the Plainfield, Illinois, resident often found himself at the proverbial party, but never as the guest of honor.

Now that he has established himself against the best bowlers in the world, his next goal is to earn some redemption at the U.S. Open and improve on last year's third-place finish.

"I set a goal for myself after making a few TV shows last year of at least making it to a title match and having a chance to win," said Prather, who won the PBA World Series of Bowling X Scorpion Championship this year for his first PBA Tour title. "After the win, I began focusing on carrying that momentum forward and making a run at a second title. You never want to see an increase in potential and then a plateau, so I'm constantly trying to get better. It would be great to have a strong finish this week."

Prather is ninth among the 24 players who have advanced to match play at the 2019 event and now has 24 games of round-robin match play to climb the standings and secure one of the five spots in Wednesday's championship stepladder.

Through 32 games on four oil patterns ranging in length from 37 to 45 feet, Prather has amassed a 6,690 pinfall total, a 209.06 average.

The ascent will be about as challenging as an old-school game of Donkey Kong, however, as there are eight PBA Tour titlists, including seven major champions, ahead of him doing everything they can to keep him at bay. There's also a very motivated group of bowlers behind him in the top 24.

The list of front-runners after Monday's eight-game cashers' round includes two-time major winner Sean Rash of Montgomery, Illinois, who closed with games of 253 and 268 to surge into the lead for the first time this week.

Rash's 6,846 total puts him four pins ahead of 2016 U.S. Open champion Francois Lavoie of Canada, the leader after two of the week's three qualifying rounds (6,842).

Lavoie is followed by Swedish left-hander Jesper Svensson (6,838), Bill O'Neill of Langhorne, Pennsylvania (6,827), and Anthony Simonsen of Little Elm, Texas (6,775).

The final spot in match play went to Team USA member Marshall Kent of Yakima, Washington, who defeated Canada's David Simard in a one-game roll-off, 202-160, after the two tied for 24th place with 6,520.

Match play will get underway Monday at 5 p.m. Eastern. All competitors will bowl eight head-to-head games, with bonus pins being awarded for each win. There will be two additional rounds of match play Tuesday at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. EDT.

At the conclusion of match play, 56-game pinfall totals, including bonus pins, will determine the finalists, who will bowl for the $30,000 top prize and coveted green jacket live on CBS Sports Network on Wednesday at 8 p.m. Eastern.

Each round of the 2019 U.S. Open, leading up to the championship round, is being broadcast live on and simulcast on FloBowling.

A year ago, Prather experienced life at the top of the standings at the U.S. Open, before eventual runner-up Jakob Butturff blew past him and the rest of the field with an Usain Bolt-like surge.

While the top seed for the televised finals quickly was out of reach, Prather did what he needed to do to remain in the race and held on to the No. 2 spot in the five-player TV stepladder.

What happened to Prather on that show was uncharacteristic and unfortunate, and it's something he's looking to make up for this week at the 2019 U.S. Open.

A missed single pin in the eighth frame of the semifinal match against England's Dom Barrett proved to be the undoing for Prather, who went on to lose the match, 226-222. Barrett then defeated Butturff for the title.

"All that boiled down to was telling myself I was going to do something, which was throw my urethane ball at spares, and I shot a 6 pin and didn't do it," Prather said. "I told myself I wanted the little bit of extra time taking out my thumb and putting it in the other ball, so I wouldn't feel rushed. On that spare shot, I didn't do it. Then, when it really came down to it, I didn't throw the ball as well as I needed to."

Prather followed the Scorpion Championship win with a non-title victory in the PBA Playoffs, and while the $100,000 top prize was life- and confidence-changing, the downtime after left him in a little bit of a lull.

He has been working to get back to that mid-season form and confidence, and things have fallen into place as the 2019 U.S. Open has progressed.

"To make back-to-back shows at the U.S. Open would be incredible, especially with how I've been feeling lately," Prather said. "I haven't been bowling with confidence and honestly had no clue where I was in the standings today based on how I was bowling. Generally, 205 isn't a great game, but at the U.S. Open, that's pretty good. I need to figure out a way to get those 205s to maybe 220 or 240. I can't control what the other guy does in match play, so I'll focus on that and hope it's enough."

Barrett of England also survived the second cut at the 2019 U.S. Open and will enter match play in 17th place with a 6,640 total.

The U.S. Open is the final major championship on the 2019 PBA Tour schedule and is conducted jointly by the United States Bowling Congress and Bowling Proprietors' Association of America.