Wilkins leads top 36 into next round at 2020 U.S. Open

Results - Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3

During the third day of qualifying at the 2020 U.S. Open, patience and mental toughness turned out to be the biggest keys to success.

The challenging 37-foot oil pattern the competitors faced Thursday at Sun Valley Lanes was the final test for the 108-player field, which has been narrowed to just 36 contenders, who now are one step closer to the coveted green jacket and $30,000 top prize.

Canada's Zach Wilkins was among the top performers for the second consecutive day, and the fact that he accomplished that with an eight-game score that was 360 pins lower than Wednesday's second round, perfectly illustrates what a test of versatility the U.S. Open really is.

"The lanes were incredibly hard today, and you had to be very mentally stable, so you didn't end up with your emotions all over the place," Wilkins said. "Being able to grind out the 190s, or even 180s, by making your spares, really kept you in it today."

Wilkins finished the 24 games of qualifying with a 5,331 total, a 222.13 average across three lane conditions ranging from 37 to 44 feet. He had blocks of 1,699, 1,996 and 1,636.

The 27-year-old two-hander improved from 45th place to third place to the overall lead after three days, relying on his own experience, both in his career and this week at Sun Valley Lanes, along with some sage advice from his mother.

"Today took a lot more patience, but the way I was able to stay in the moment yesterday, even though I was striking a lot more, helped me come into today with the same focus on every shot," Wilkins said. "I've really just got to thank my mom for teaching me how to stay composed, whether I'm striking a lot or struggling. It's about finding an emotional plateau and just staying at that level."

Wilkins was followed in the 24-game standings by reigning Professional Bowlers Association Player of the Year Jason Belmonte of Australia and recent PBA Tournament of Champions winner Kristopher Prather of Plainfield, Illinois, who tied for second place with 5,255.

Two-time PBA major champion Anthony Simonsen of Little Elm, Texas, was fourth with 5,244, and United States Bowling Congress and PBA Hall of Famer Norm Duke of Clermont, Florida, rounded out the top five with 5,220.

The final spot in the Cashers' Round went to former Team USA member Perry Crowell IV of Chesterfield, Michigan, who defeated two-time U.S. Open champion Walter Ray Williams Jr. of Oxford, Florida, 184-151, in a one-game roll-off after the two tied for 36th place with 5,003, a 208.46 average.

Each round of the 2020 U.S. Open, leading up to the championship round, is being broadcast live at BowlTV.com and simulcast on FloBowling.

All 108 competitors this week bowled 24 games of qualifying over the three days, eight games each day, before Thursday's initial cut.

The eight-game Cashers' Round will introduce the week's fourth oil pattern and get underway Friday at 11 a.m. Eastern. The players will have a chance to practice on the 41-foot pattern Thursday night and again Friday morning before the start of competition.

"My hand was a little sore Monday after three practice sessions and a lot of games the week before, so I didn't get a chance to practice on the fourth oil pattern, but I'm going to take a look at it and bowl on it tonight," Wilkins said. "I'll come up with a game plan and make sure to include what has been helping me all week, which is staying mentally tough."

Following the Cashers' Round, the 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.

Matches will take place over three blocks, with eight games Friday night and 16 games throughout the day Saturday.

FOX will have live coverage of the stepladder finals Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern.

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.

Lavoie cruised into the next round in sixth place with a 5,210 pinfall total.