Belmonte, Johnson lead qualifying at 2013 U.S. Open

Standings: Men | Women

COLUMBUS, Ohio - After 24 games of qualifying at three different Columbus-area bowling centers, only 93 players remain in contention at the 2013 Lipton Bowling's U.S. Open.

BelmonteLARGE250Australian two-hander Jason Belmonte overcame a couple of early hiccups in Wednesday's third round to increase his lead to 381 pins in the men's division with a 5,567 total, a 231.96 average. Defending champion Pete Weber is a distant second with 5,186, while collegiate standout AJ Johnson is third with 5,170.

"I've been pretty realistic about the difficulty of the lane condition, and even though I had two good days so far, I certainly haven't relaxed," said Belmonte, who had games of 164 and 145 on Wednesday but finished with 1,763 for his eight games. "I just didn't have a very good feel or look, and if I didn't hit the pocket, it was a split. I didn't let it get me down. I tried to fight back and find a good ball reaction and then take advantage of it."

On the women's side, two time U.S. Women's Open champion Liz Johnson of Cheektowaga, N.Y., moved into the top spot after spending the first two rounds behind defending champion Kelly Kulick of Union, N.J.JohnsonLizLARGE

Johnson finished her 24 games with a 5,108 total, a 212.83 average. Kulick now is second with 5,038, and 2013 USBC Team USA Trials winner Danielle McEwan of Stony Point, N.Y., is third with 4,984.

"You pretty much had to thread a needle to get to the spot today, and the lanes were pretty tough from pair to pair," said Johnson, who won the U.S. Women's Open in 1996 and 2007. "You really need the right ball and the right speed, but it's also about making shots and executing. I feel pretty good overall, though. I have been pretty consistent at all three centers, so I'm confident, but I also know there's still a long way to go."

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 Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl, Columbus Western Bowl and Holiday Lanes.

Following Wednesday's final qualifying round, the field was cut to the top 25 percent in each division (65 men and 28 women), who will return to the lanes at Columbus Bowl for the six-game cashers round Thursday morning at 8 a.m. EDT. The top 24 in each division after 30 games will advance to 24 games of round-robin match play beginning Thursday night. The final four in each division will advance to the TV finals.

"I understand the challenge and nature of this tournament, and I know it's not even halfway over, so I can't relax," said Belmonte, who finished third in last year's U.S. Open. "I have to continue to fight and knuckle down because there's still a lot of bowling left. I don't just want to depend on a really good start to carry me to the finals."

It took an average of 200.8 to make the cut on the men's side and 193.13 to make it through in the women's division.

The combined events have a prize fund of more than $400,000 and will culminate with the live two-hour ESPN finals 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.
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.