Match play underway at 2013 Lipton Bowling's U.S. Open

Standings: Men | Women

Australia's Jason Belmonte has been the man to beat by a wide margin this week at the 2013 Lipton Bowling's U.S. Open, but along with the top seed for match play, his success also earned him a target on his back.

BelmonteJason2013LARGEThe two-hander's opponents struck early often during the first block of round-robin matches Thursday night at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl and out-averaged him 231-202, while cutting his lead from 449 pins to 172.

Belmonte went 3-5 in the opening round and leads with an 8,688 total for 38 games, which includes 30 bonus pins for each win. Pete Weber of St. Ann, Mo., and Wes Malott of Pflugerville, Texas, each posted 7-1 records and sit second and third, respectively, with 8,516 and 8,499. Team USA member Marshall Kent of Yakima, Wash., is fourth with 8,309.

Defending champion Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J., and two-time U.S Women's Open winner Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y., have split time at the top of the women's leaderboard all week, but after eight games of match play, Kulick is out front with an 8,221 total. Johnson is second with 8,157, Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, N.Y., is third with 8,033 and United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer Leanne Hulsenberg of Roseville, Calif., is fourth with 7,839.KulickKellyTUSAposeLARGE

"The more they breakdown, the more they come to me, so knowing I've found something at the end of the last few blocks makes me feel good about finishing strong," said Kulick, who is looking for her fourth U.S. Women's Open crown. "Now, it's just about making the moves quicker and avoiding splits. The 30 bonus pins each game are so important. I just want to keep grinding and taking advantage of the pairs that will give me 240 but still get to 190-200 on the pairs that are tougher."

Belmonte, a seven-time Professional Bowlers Association Tour titlist, notched his first major win at the 2013 USBC Masters and was the runner-up at this year's PBA World Championship and Barbasol Tournament of Champions. He's looking to become the 11th player in PBA history to win two majors in the same season.

While his first match-play block was a struggle, Belmonte sees it more as motivation than defeat.

"My shot focus tonight was all over the place, while it's something I've been really good at the last couple of days," Belmonte said. "I'm just going to prepare better for tomorrow. I will get a good night's rest and come in more focused and disciplined."

Weber, who is the defending champion at the U.S. Open after winning the event for a record fifth time, also won the Tournament of Champions earlier this season. He is tied with the late Earl Anthony for the most major victories with 10, but he never has won two in the same year.

Match play will continue Friday with two more eight-game rounds at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. EDT, after which, the top four bowlers in each division will advance to the TV finals.

The combined events have a prize fund of more than $400,000 and will culminate with the live two-hour ESPN telecast on Saturday at noon EDT.
The men's and women's champions will face off in a special Battle of the Sexes match to crown the ultimate U.S. Open winner. The special match will be broadcast live on ESPN immediately following the men's and women's finals.

The 2013 Lipton Bowling's U.S. Open started with nearly 400 of the best men and women bowlers in the world, competing side by side (in separate events) at three Columbus-area bowling centers - Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl, Columbus Western Bowl and Holiday Lanes.

It took an average of 207.57 to make match play on the men's side and 195.23 to make the cut in the women's division.
For more information on the U.S. Open, visit Live streaming of qualifying and match play are being provided by the PBA's Xtra Frame service.