Liz Johnson nearing top of leaderboard at 2022 U.S. Women's Open

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SOUTH GLENS FALLS, N.Y. - With the grueling format and challenging lane conditions, experience can play a key role at the U.S. Women’s Open, and no one in this week’s field has more experience than six-time champion Liz Johnson of Niagara Falls, New York.

The 48-year-old right-hander had her experience on display Friday night on the flat and demanding 39-foot lane condition, tossing an eight-game block of 1,641 to move into second place with a 16-game total of 3,329. Singapore’s Cherie Tan added a second-round block of 1,601 and remained in the lead after two rounds with a 3,339 total.

They were followed in the standings by Stefanie Johnson of McKinney, Texas (3,287), Kayla Bandy of Wichita, Kansas (3,284), and Erin McCarthy of Elkhorn, Nebraska (3,274).

Competition at Kingpin’s Alley Family Fun Center continues Saturday at 8 a.m. Eastern with the third round of qualifying on a 42-foot oil pattern. Saturday’s round will determine the 30 players who advance to the fourth round and final oil pattern.

Those 30 competitors will bowl an additional eight games before the field is cut to the top 24 athletes. Those players will then bowl 24 games of round-robin match play over two days, with seeding based on their 32-game pinfall totals.

There will be 30 bonus pins awarded for each win in match play, and the 56-game pinfall totals, including bonus pins, will determine the five players for the championship stepladder.

All rounds of qualifying and match play are being broadcast live at BowlTV.com through Monday night, and the event will conclude live Tuesday on CBS Sports Network at 7 p.m. Eastern.

The winner will take home the iconic U.S. Women's Open trophy, coveted green jacket and $60,000 top prize.

Liz Johnson was fueled by a strong start with games of 207, 225, 226 and 228 to open up the block and hung on for the final half with games of 187, 196, 184 and 188.

Her U.S. Women’s Open victories (1996, 2007, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017) are spread across three different decades, and a win this week would add a seventh victory in a fourth decade. On a day where the lanes were tough, and the strong-minded would remain in contention, Johnson relied on her experience and understood patience was a necessary attribute to possess.

“I think over the years, if anything, this event has taught me to be patient,” said Johnson, who won PWBA Player of the Year in 2015, 2016 and 2017. “Even during the first day, I didn’t start so well early on, but I hung in there for a good block. Tomorrow’s another day. It’s going to be another tough eight games, and I’m going to take it one day, one game at a time. It's all you can do right now. You can't look ahead. Again, patience is the key.”

Liz Johnson’s season to this point has been “OK” in her words, but she’s cashed in all seven events and has made match play or the top 12 in three events. She’s still producing and certainly capable of winning each time she laces up her shoes but understands the talent on the Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour continues to get better, yet she feels right at home at the U.S. Women’s Open.

“I feel like I could be better,” Johnson said. “I had a little doubt in my mind for this season because my legs weren't working as well as I'd hoped. You have such great talent out here and it's hard to keep up. So far, it's been a bit consistent. I’ve been right around the top 12 every week and cashed every week. But, it’s the U.S. Open. It's a long format, which is something I like, and the scores are low. The shot is really hard day to day, and this is something that I do like. The more games the better.”

The high block of the day belonged to Stefanie Johnson, who fired a 1,720 eight-game total to open up competition this morning on B squad. Johnson struggled on Thursday’s 44-foot oil pattern (1,567) and was outside of the cut line after the first round of qualifying.

She opened the block with a 266 game, which set the pace.

“Honestly, I felt yesterday, and I know we're bowling on different patterns, I got trapped a lot just trying to change balls more than I probably needed to,” Stefanie Johnson said. “So today, I kind of stuck to the game plan of getting out of the gate strong with a ball that I was comfortable with and making moves with that ball until it wasn't really an option.”

The 38-year-old right-hander was in danger of losing the cushion she built in the sixth game, when she couldn’t find a rhythm and was unable to strike. The U.S. Women’s Open is about digging deep and finding another level, and late in the game she was able to throw five consecutive strikes to save that game with 194, and maybe her tournament.

“Yeah, my back was against the wall,” Stefanie Johnson said. “That game I had 78 in the sixth frame, and I just knew if I didn't make any sort of bold move, it was going to be a disaster. You just kind of dig deep in those moments and make the best shots that you can and let the pins fall how they do. Thankfully, I kind of salvaged that game and was able to move forward.”

Reigning champion Josie Barnes of Hermitage, Tennessee, is 30th with 3,131.