Butturff tops standings after three rounds at 2021 U.S. Open

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Results: Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3

RENO, Nev. -
When Jakob Butturff of Tempe, Arizona, said he was going to be comfortable on the lane condition being used for the third round of qualifying at the 2021 U.S. Open, choosing him to lead for a third consecutive day would've been the safest bet at any sportsbook near the National Bowling Stadium.

Now, the 26-year-old left-hander will have a few more days to try to parlay his qualifying success into the first U.S. Open win of his career, a title that has eluded him, despite equally dominant performances in recent years.

Butturff averaged 227.88 over 24 games this week to pace the 108-player field at the NBS, and he'll now lead the top 36 players into the Cashers' Round, which will get underway Friday at 1 p.m. Eastern.

A 1,894 block on Thursday's 44-foot oil pattern helped Butturff to a 5,469 three-day total.

The seven-time Professional Bowlers Association Tour champion was followed by a trio of fellow southpaws - Matthew Sanders of Evansville, Indiana (5,312), and Anthony Neuer of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and Sweden's Jesper Svensson, who tied with 5,310.

SamCooleyForWeb300x169Australia's Sam Cooley rolled the highest set of the day with 1,962, and he was able to surge 24 spots into fifth place with a 5,264 three-day total.

"I was able to hit them on two of the days when I had a great look, and on the day I expected to really have to grind, I did better than I expected," Butturff said. "I'm feeling really good heading into tomorrow. I'm the leader going into the Cashers' Round at the U.S. Open, and that's the biggest confidence boost."

The final spot in the Cashers' Round went to Brian Robinson of Morgantown, West Virginia, who defeated Junior Team USA member Spencer Robarge of Springfield, Missouri, 241-206, in a one-game roll-off after the two tied for 36th place with 5,051, a 210.46 average.

In the final frame of qualifying, Robinson had a nine-count spare after a string of strikes and then struck on his fill ball, while Robarge left a 2-4-6-10 split on his own fill ball to force the tie.

Robarge, who is just 18 years old, finished third at last week's United States Bowling Congress Masters, which also was held at the Stadium.

The remaining competitors will return to the lanes for eight additional games on a fourth lane condition - a 42-foot oil pattern that also will be used for the 24 games of match play and the televised championship round.

Total pinfall for 32 games 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 stepladder finals.

Each round of qualifying and match play at the 2021 U.S. Open is being broadcast live at BowlTV.com and simulcast on FloBowling.

The U.S. Open will conclude live on Fox Sports' FS1 on Sunday as part of the 2021 PBA Tour television schedule, airing from 2-4 p.m. Eastern. The winner will take home the coveted green jacket and a $30,000 top prize. The event is considered a major on the PBA Tour.

In 2017 and 2018, Butturff turned in historic performances at the U.S. Open, only to lose those title matches to Rhino Page and Dom Barrett, respectively.

Butturff entered each stepladder as the No. 1 seed, leading the field after 56 games by 617 pins in 2017 and 552 pins in 2018, but it wasn't until match play that he was able to pull away from the field.

In 2017, he was third after Day 3 and second after Day 4. In 2018, he was eighth after Day 3 and second after Day 4, but still 124 pins off the lead.

Being the front-runner earlier in the event doesn't change the goal, however, which is to win the 2021 U.S. Open for his second major title.

The best chance at that, of course, would be to continue this week's momentum and hang on to the top spot in the standings. That would put him one win away from finally breaking through at the prestigious tournament.

"The two times I was the top seed at the U.S. Open, I was not leading going into the Cashers' Round or match play, so my mindset probably will be a little different this time around," said Butturff, the 2019 USBC Masters champion. "I may look at the scores to see the scoring pace, but I really just need to focus on bowling my own game and then take advantage of any breaks that may come."

Defending U.S. Open champion Jason Belmonte of Australia also made the cut Thursday, qualifying eighth with a 5,224 total, a 217.67 average.

The 37-year-old two-hander is in search of a record 14th major victory and is looking to become the first bowler in 25 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title.

Only four bowlers - Andy Varipapa, Don Carter, Dick Weber and Dave Husted - have won the event in back-to-back years. Husted was the last to accomplish the feat, doing so in 1996.

The majority of the competitors this week earned direct entry into the event based on their on-lane performances throughout 2020, while 43 bowlers advanced to the 108-player field through Sunday's eight-game pre-tournament qualifier.