Canada's Lambert leads first round at USBC Masters

RESULTS: Round 1
BLOG: Erik Vermilyea

RENO, Nev. - After finishing in a tie and losing a roll-off to advance past the first cut last year, George Lambert IV came into the 2011 Bayer United States Bowling Congress Masters determined to avoid that situation at all costs.

The Canadian got off to a hot start to the tournament, shooting 1,256 for five games, an average of 251.2, to take the opening round lead Tuesday at the National Bowling Stadium. Chris Warren of Grants Pass, Ore., the 1990 Masters champion, sits in second with 1,200.

Lambert, who finished third at the 2006 Masters, shot an 820 set for his first three with games of 255, 279 and 286 before closing with 203 and 233.

"I tied for the last spot last year, and I remember being lost the last few games," Lambert said. "You have to get what you can get early because it's a shorter format. I definitely didn't want to be fluttering around the bubble tomorrow. I wanted to come out here and get off to a great start."

After Monday afternoon's practice session, Lambert said he was a bit uncomfortable with his ball reaction and entered Tuesday's round unsure of his game plan.

"I came into today pretty nervous because during the practice session my look wasn't very defined," Lambert said. "I didn't know how I was going to play the lanes. I decided to play them a little straighter and it paid off. I caught a couple good pairs and ran with it."

Defending champion Walter Ray Williams Jr. is competing in qualifying after a rule change for this year's Masters. Williams will advance to the match-play bracket no matter what, but can earn a higher seed with a good performance.

The 47-time Professional Bowlers Association Tour champion from Ocala, Fla., got off to a shaky start in the first round and sits in 205th place with a total of 914. Should he remain outside of the top 64, he would be placed in the No. 64 spot in Thursday afternoon's bracket.

All 256 players will return Wednesday for five games of qualifying before the field is cut to the top 65 for five final games of qualifying Thursday morning. The top 63 players plus Williams will move on to the double-elimination match-play bracket Thursday afternoon.

The USBC Masters is a major on the Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour and the champion of the event will earn $50,000 for first place. The final four players who survive bracket play will advance to the championship round, which will be televised live on ESPN at 3 p.m. Eastern on Sunday.