Prather sets pace through two rounds at 2020 U.S. Open

Results - Round 1 | Round 2

While many eyes were on Canada's Zach Wilkins and the amazing performance he put on Wednesday at the 2020 U.S. Open, two of the sport's brightest stars - Kristopher Prather of Plainfield, Illinois, and Jason Belmonte of Australia - quietly were securing their own places at the top of the second-round standings.

Wilkins posted the highest score of the day at Sun Valley Lanes, a 1,996 effort that included one of the day's four 300s, while Prather's consistency over the first two rounds of the event earned him the overall lead with a 3,772 two-day total, a 235.75 average.

Prather posted a 1,878 total on Tuesday's 39-foot oil pattern and added 1,894 on Wednesday's 44-foot pattern.

"I'm feeling pretty confident so far this week, but there's still a lot more bowling and two more oil patterns ahead of us," Prather said. "I knew the two patterns we saw first would be the better ones for me, and tomorrow's probably going to be more of a grind because it's a flatter pattern. So much will depend on the people you follow, so quickly seeing the differences from pair to pair will be important."

Prather is followed in the standings by Belmonte, the reigning PBA Player of the Year (3,697), Wilkins (3,695), two-time major champion Anthony Simonsen of Little Elm, Texas (3,652), and Swedish left-hander Jesper Svensson (3,633).

Perry Crowell IV of Chesterfield, Michigan, Adam Zimmerman of Deer Park, New York, and Matthew Kuba of Tinley Park, Illinois, also shot 300 on Wednesday, bringing the total for the week to eight. 

Belmonte's 1,880 set Wednesday was the third-highest on his squad behind Wilkins and Prather, and the fifth-highest among all 108 participants. He has won a record 11 major titles on the PBA Tour, with the U.S. Open being the one that has eluded him. The 36-year-old finished fourth at the event in 2019 and has a best finish of second (2013).

WilkinsZach2020USOForWeb637x359Minutes before Wilkins' run at perfection during the fourth game Wednesday, Prather made his own bid for 300, which would've been his second in as many days. He left a 10 pin on his final offering to finish with 299.

Prather, a 28-year-old right-hander, is in the midst of a hot streak that includes making the championship round in this month's first two majors. He won the Professional Bowlers Association Tournament of Champions to start the month and finished fourth in last week's PBA Players Championship.

"I think maintaining this momentum is about constantly being in the right frame of mind, which for me, means being in a good mood," Prather said. "We have a lot of positivity in the house between all of us who stay together, and we're always laughing and having a good time. It's really easy for me to transfer that positive energy onto the lanes and use it as a way to get the day going."

Being relaxed when taking the lanes has made it easier for Prather to focus, see the lanes transition and make the proper choices along the way.

The group Prather spends his off time with while on the PBA Tour ranges from four to a dozen people, who he says serve as a great support system on the road, while his wife and family offer much-needed support and reassurance from afar.

One of the most successful players on the PBA Tour in recent months, Prather certainly has peaked at the right time. Because of the limited time between events, especially February's three consecutive majors, the fact that he's now a major champion hasn't really had a chance to sink in.

"I think because the breaks between the tournaments have been so short, it hasn't really sunk in yet that I won a major," said Prather, who owns three PBA Tour titles overall and has earned more than $100,000 for the second consecutive season. "I mean, I know I am, because I have the trophy, but I haven't had a chance to think too much about it.

"Ultimately, I'm just in a very good spot mentally and physically, as far as how I'm seeing everything and reacting to everything that's going on out on the lanes, and that's allowing me to be more confident overall."

Prather and the rest of the 108-player field will return to the lanes Thursday for their third round of qualifying, and they'll be facing a 37-foot oil pattern. Squads will take place at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Eastern.

At the conclusion of Thursday's round, the top 36 bowlers will advance to Friday's eight-game Cashers' Round, based on their 24-game pinfall totals, and a fourth oil pattern will be introduced.

Following the Cashers' Round, 32-game pinfall totals will determine the 24 players for the round-robin portion of the event, and their 56-game totals, including 30 bonus pins for each win in match play, will decide the five players for the championship stepladder.

Each round of the 2020 U.S. Open, leading up to the championship round, will be broadcast live at and simulcast on FloBowling.

FOX will have live coverage of the stepladder finals on at 1 p.m. Eastern. The winner will take home the coveted green jacket and a $30,000 top prize.

Canada's Francois Lavoie is the defending champion at the U.S. Open, an event he also won in 2016 for his first PBA Tour title. He is one of 12 bowlers in history to win the U.S. Open on multiple occasions.

Only four bowlers - Andy Varipapa, Don Carter, Dick Weber and Dave Husted have successfully defended their U.S. Open titles. Husted was the last to accomplish the feat, doing so in 1996.

Through two rounds this week, Lavoie is 11th with a 3,560 total.