HENDERSON, Nev. - Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, earned the top seed for Sunday's live televised finals at the 2012 Alka Seltzer Plus Liquid Gels United States Bowling Congress Masters on Friday.
Barnes went 6-0 in the double-elimination match-play bracket at Sunset Station's Strike Zone Bowling Center and is now one more victory away from claiming his first career Masters title. The finals will be broadcast live on ESPN at 12:30 p.m. Eastern on Sunday.
Barnes earned the top seed by virtue of an 806-743 victory over Mike Fagan of Dallas. Fagan, who was previously unbeaten, is the No. 2 seed for the finals. Rounding out the telecast is No. 3 seed Dan MacLelland of Canada and No. 4 seed Bryon Smith of Roseburg, Ore.
"Things definitely fell my way today," said Barnes, who finished as the runner-up to Walter Ray Williams Jr. at 2004 and 2010 Masters. "This is where I wanted to be at the start of the week. After having Walter Ray fire a 268 and a 290 at me when I was the top seed previously, I feel like this time it's my turn. I'm a big believer that everything evens out, and I'm a long way from being even."
A victory by Barnes would make him the third Professional Bowlers Association Grand Slam winner in history, joining bowling greats Mike Aulby and Norm Duke. The Grand Slam is made up of the four majors on the PBA Tour - the USBC Masters, PBA Tournament of Champions, U.S. Open and the PBA National/World Championship.
"Winning this event is definitely a bucket list item for me," Barnes said. "This tournament is the most important one on my career list right now."
Fagan plowed through five consecutive opponents before running into Barnes in the final match to determine the top seed for the TV show. He said he was just happy that match happened when it did.
"I feel good, and I'm just happy that match with Chris came at the end and not earlier in the bracket," said Fagan, who will be seeking his first major title. "I'm just trying to play my game and not worry about any of my competitors. That's the frame of mind I need to keep for the TV show."
As for MacLelland, he knew getting to the championship would be a grind after winning his first match and then dropping into the losers bracket. He had to win seven matches in the losers bracket, including a 746-690 victory over Chris Warren of Grants Pass, Ore., that locked up a spot on the telecast.
"My body isn't quite what it used to be, and I knew it was going to be a grind coming into today," said MacLelland, who was a three-time collegiate bowler of the year at Saginaw Valley State. "I kept telling myself that I could do it, and I basically willed myself to the show."
Smith made the finals by overcoming a 29-pin deficit heading into the final game, rallying for a 660-625 victory against Chris Loschetter of Avon, Ohio. It's the first time Smith has made a TV appearance since 2004 and his lone professional title came at the 2003 USBC Masters.
"My heart rate went up a couple times today, and when I was down in that last game my heart rate went up again," Smith said. "Come Sunday, I'm sure there will be some nerves. When this isn't something you do on a regular basis anymore, it can be a bit more nerve wrecking."
The week began with 305 of the best players in the world vying for a piece of the $250,000 prize fund and $50,000 first-place prize.
For more information on the USBC Masters, visit BOWL.com/masters.