PoolRoom

Teams Set For Mosconi Cup

With the announcement of the final “wildcard” selections by the opposing captains, the final rosters for Team USA and Team Europe are set with four weeks to go before the 23rd Mosconi Cup commences at the Alexandra Palace in London, Dec. 6-9.

Team USA captain Mark Wilson used his wildcard picks to add Mosconi Cup veteran and recent Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame inductee “Rocket” Rodney Morris and 29-year-old Justin Bergman to the roster. It will mark the tenth Mosconi appearance for Morris and the third consecutive appearance by Bergman. The duo will join Shane Van Boening, Skyler Woodward and Mike Dechaine, who earned automatic spots on the team by finishing in the top three in points over 28 tournaments throughout the year. Only Morris did not play on the 2015 team that fell to Team Europe, 11-8, in Las Vegas. (Corey Deuel was the fifth member of Team USA in 2015.)

Team Europe captain Marcus Chamat handpicked reigning World 9-Ball Champion Albin Ouschan of Austria and England’s Darren Appleton, who will be making his eighth consecutive appearance, to join Holland’s Niels Feijen, Scotland’s Jayson Shaw and England’s Mark Gray. The three automatic berths on Team Europe were awarded to the points champion of the EuroTour (Feijen), the top European points earner on a World Events Rankings (Shaw), and the highest-ranked player on the Combined (Gray, who placed third behind already-qualified Shaw and Feijen). Feijen, Appleton and Ouschan also appeared for Team Europe in 2015.

As is customary, the wildcard announcements were greeted by second-guessing in social media. American fans questioned Wilson’s selection of Bergman, ranked sixth on the U.S. points list, over fifth-place finisher Oscar Dominguez. (Morris finished fourth in points.) Given the fact that the 2015 squad was made up of the top five point-earners, and the fact that Bergman lives in southern Illinois, not far from Wilson’s St. Louis home, charges of favoritism and “politics” were bandied about as fans weighed in. “I don’t have a bias and I don’t give those claims any credence,” said Wilson. “I simply picked the team that I thought gave us the best chance of winning this year. I analyze things like late-season performance, strengths and weaknesses and how they fit in with the strengths and weaknesses of the rest of the team.

“In the case of Rodney,” Wilson continued, “He went to the last six events. The effort and results were there. He gives us the best chance of winning.Last year it just happened that the team I chose finished one through five in points. That doesn’t mean that is the way it was meant to be. People seem to have a hard time with the concept of what the wildcard pick means.”

The concept of a “wildcard” selection was even more pronounced in Chamat’s selection of Appleton for Team Europe. While the former World 9-Ball Champion has been a member of six Mosconi Cup-winning squads, Appleton suffered through a subpar 2016, failing to crack the top 10 in the European Combined points list.

“No player really stood out for me for the last spot,” said Chamat. “There are so many good players in Europe, but I had to weigh the ups and downs. Darren is a big-match player with huge experience. And he is an awesome team player. I could have picked other players, but I believe in Darren. This is the biggest event for all of us and the pressure will be amazing. I think Darren will be amazing, too.”

WILSON ANNOUNCES FINAL SELECTIONS FOR TEAM USA

After making “some of the roughest telephone calls I’ve ever had to make,” Team USA captain Mark Wilson announced his five-man team for the 21st Mosconi Cup, scheduled for Dec. 1-4, in Blackpool, England. The squad features a mixture of veteran players and youth.

Not surprisingly, newly minted U.S. Open 9-Ball champion Shane Van Boening will lead the U.S. squad, which has dropped four Mosconi Cups in a row (and six of seven) to Team Europe. The 31-year-old Van Boening will play in his eighth Cup, and will be joined by Cup veterans Corey Deuel, also making his eighth appearance, and John Schmidt, who played in 2006 in Rotterdam. Making their Mosconi Cup debuts will be 27-year-old Justin Bergman of Fairview Heights, Ill., and 26-year-old Justin Hall of Palm Harbor, Fla.

The “tough calls” Wilson made were to Brandon Shuff, Oscar Dominguez and Jeremy Sossei, who have been offered coaching positions in Blackpool. Dominguez and Shuff have each participated in one Mosconi Cup, with Dominguez being a member of the last U.S. team to win the title, in 2009.

“This represents a new era for Team USA,” said Wilson, who was named captain by Matchroom Sport in January, just a month after Team USA was humiliated by Team Europe, 12-2, in Las Vegas. “And I’m counting on these players to be leaders. “The final decisions were difficult,” Wilson added. “Every player put a lot of time and effort into their game over the past nine months. And they all represented the sport and the U.S. well during that time. There were a few close calls, but I’m confident in these picks. It was a pretty thorough process.”

According to Wilson, the three players left off the final squad were asked to travel with the team to England, expense-paid, to assist during the event. “This won’t be a holiday,” Wilson added. “Each player will be assigned special duties, setting up little refresher drills for the team before each round.” Wilson said the duties include an Offensive Coordinator, a Defensive Coordinator (to work on safeties and kick shots) and Specialty Shots Coordinator (for breaking and elevated cue shots).
“I will have drills for the players to work on,” said Wilson, “and the coaches will help the players run through the drills.”

According to Wilson, the team will meet in St. Louis, Nov. 20-21, for intensive practice sessions at Lindenwood University, where Wilson coaches the billiards program. The team will participate in Mosconi Cup-style match play at Starship Billiards in Decatur, Ill., the following two days. After several more days of practice in St. Louis, the team will share a Thanksgiving dinner, before leaving for Blackpool on Friday, Nov. 28. “I feel great about Team USA,” Wilson said. “I’m ready to go to war with these guys.”

Wilson Names Team USA Hopefuls

Mosconi_CupAs was his original intent, Mosconi Cup Team USA Captain Mark Wilson worked quickly to select the players who will compete for the final five roster spots for the 2014 event in December in Blackpool, England. Wilson announced the selection of eight players who will train and compete together through the summer, before the captain whittles the list down to the five players who will wear the red, white and blue in Blackpool.

Not surprisingly, Wilson tabbed America’s No. 1, Shane Van Boening, and immediately announced that he will expect the taciturn star to provide leadership to the 2014 squad. “Shane sets a great example,” Wilson said in a press release. “And I expect to rely on him for leadership this year.”

Wilson also named seven-time Mosconi Cup veteran Corey Deuel, who many thought should have been on the team in 2013, to the squad. John Schmidt, Oscar Dominguez and Brandon Shuff, each of whom has participated in one Mosconi Cup, were named to the team was well. Leaning on America’s youth, Wilson rounded out his selection with Southern Classic One-Pocket champion Justin Bergman, Derby City titlist Justin Hall and Connecticut’s Jeremy Sossei.

“I’m really excited by this team,” Wilson said. “Every player seems so genuinely appreciative and excited. They’re all willing to do whatever it takes to develop a strong team and a strong sense of unity.”

More interesting than who Wilson selected, of course, was the list of players who weren’t invited to “camp.” The most notable omission was Johnny Archer, whose string of 17 consecutive Mosconi Cup appearances will come to an end. Fourteen-time Cup participant Earl Strickland and nine-time team member Rodney Morris were also left off the roster. In fact, Van Boening will be the only holdover from the 2013 squad that lost 21-1 to Team Europe in Las Vegas.

“I didn’t interview those players,” Wilson admitted. “And I explained to Johnny that I thought it best to go in a completely different direction this year. A lot of it is about attitude. Last year I felt there was no sense of urgency. There seemed to be a sense that it was a yearend bonus, and if the team won, great.”

Another player conspicuous by his absence is Mike Dechaine, one of the most consistent American players over the past three years.

“I spoke to Mike,” said Wilson. “In the end I felt that his reputation among the players wasn’t a good fit at this stage for a team event like the Mosconi Cup.”

Wilson added that his plan is to get the players together several times over the summer and fall for practice and team bonding. Wilson said he planned to make the final cut to five players after the U.S. Open, and that Team USA would meet and practice together for a week at Lindenwood University near St. Louis before departing for London. The dates of the 2014 Mosconi Cup are Dec. 1-4.

Van Boening Tops at Super Billiards Expo

Van Boening repeats as champion with an 8-4 win over Thorstan Hohmann in the final's third set.

Van Boening repeats as champion with an 8-4 win over Thorstan Hohmann in the final’s third set.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Allen Hopkins moved the 2013 Super Billiards Expo from the Philadelphia area to Edison, N.J., just outside of New York City. The April 4-7 consumer trade show that boasts a host of amateur and professional events also saw the Pro Players 10-Ball Championship switch formats — from the usual single-set, double-elimination chart to a single-elimination event that matched players in best-of-three races-to-8.

But with a new venue and new format, the champion remained Shane Van Boening. The reigning Player of the Year took his fourth Pro Players title, and second in a row, with an impressive run through a field of 61.

Starting with wins over Donnie Mills and Robb Saez, Van Beoning then ran into 2011 champ Ralf Souquet. The American dropped the second set, 8-6, but bounced back with a clinching 8-2 set to advance to the quarterfinals.

Souquet was hardly the only big name to be sidelined early. Efren Reyes drew German superstar Thorsten Hohmann in the first round — and the Filipino legend dropped consecutive sets to end an uncharacteristically quick event. Johnny Archer, Francisco Bustamante and Mika Immonen also crashed out before winning two sets.

In the quarterfinals, Van Boening took two close sets against Darren Appleton; Warren Kiamco edged Corey Deuel; Alex Pagulayan thumped Jeremy Sossei, and Hohmann outlasted Scotland’s Jayson Shaw.

In a rematch from the 2003 World Pool Championship, Hohmann took his spot in the final by edging Pagulayan. Van Boening then topped Kiamco in straight sets, 8-6 and 8-5, to take the other seat in the championship match.

Van Boening struck first in the final, taking the opening set, 8-6. He then worked his way to within a 10-ball of the title in the second when he got on the hill, 7-6. But Hohmann responded with a pair of racks to force a decisive third set.

In the final race-to-8, Van Boening turned a 3-2 lead into an insurmountable 7-2 advantage. Hohmann took a pair of racks to edge within shouting distance at 7-4, but Van Boening then broke and ran the 12th table for the 8-4 win.

His second consecutive Pro Players title netted Van Boening $10,000 while Hohmann pocketed $5,000 for his runner-up finish.

DCC 9-Ball: Alex Roars in Final

Pagulayan was all smiles after taking the 9-ball title. (Photo by David Thomson-mediumpool.com)

Pagulayan was all smiles after taking the 9-ball title. (Photo by David Thomson-mediumpool.com)

With three players left in the Derby City Classic’s 9-ball division, Shawn Putnam caught a bit of a break when he received the bye into the final, leaving Mike Dechaine and Alex Pagulayan to play in a de facto semifinal, with both players already having exercised their buy-back options.

Dechaine, fresh off a dominant 9-2 victory over Shane Van Boening, kept pace with Pagulayan. With the 9-ball event extending races to nine racks, a change to meet BCA-mandated specifications for points events, Pagulayan and Dechaine met on the hill, 8-8. Following an exchange of safeties, the Filipino hit a table-length kick on the 1 ball on his way out, securing his spot alongside Putnam.

And while Putnam kept pace with Pagulayan, the Lion proved too much for the 41-year-old American. After Putnam closed to within a rack at 7-6, Pagulayan forced his opponent to foul in each of the next two racks to take the $16,000 title by a final count of 9-6.

With that victory, Pagualayn capped the 15th Derby City Classic where the majority of the big prizes went to the always-formidable Filipino contingent. Francisco Bustamante, winner of the banks division and runner-up to Corey Deuel in one-pocket, took home the $20,000 Master of the Table all-around award. Dennis Orcollo, meanwhile, snapped off the Bigfoot 10-Ball Challenge to pocket the $20,000 first prize.

U.S. Open Primed for Big Weekend

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Heading into the final two days of the 2012 U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships, it’s clear that the strong have survived. At the conclusion of play on the winners side on Thursday night, just eight players remained. And that octet packed plenty of star power.

Former champions Shane Van Boening, Alex Pagulayan and Johnny Archer are all chasing title No. 2. But in perhaps the most thrilling story of the U.S. Open to this point, 58-year-old Efren Reyes strung together five victories — including an electrifying 11-10 win over two-time defending champ Darren Appleton — to put himself in contention for the Open crown. He will square off against countryman Dennis Orcollo on Friday. Pagulayan and Archer will square off in the other match on that side of the bracket.

Scotland’s Jayson Shaw will face 63-year-old Jose Parica on the other side of the bracket. Parica, runner-up at the 2003 U.S. Open, advanced via a dominant victory over a resurgent Earl Strickland, 11-5. The winner of that set will then face the victor in Shane Van Boening’s match against Ronnie Alcano, a rematch of the 2007 U.S. Open won by the American.

While eight players have two bullets left in their revolvers, the left side is packed with championship-caliber talent. Most notably, late Thursday evening, Darren Appleton trailed American Oscar Dominguez. In search of his third-straight title, the Englishman was struggling to rally in the second match after his heart-breaking loss to Reyes.

Leading the charge on the one-loss side, Japan’s Yukio Akagariyama, China’s Li Hewen and Taiwan’s Chang Jung-Lin are major title winners seeking glory on American soil. Europe’s Albin Ouschan, brother of women’s star Jasmin and rising star on the EuroTour, joins England’s Chris Melling in the title hunt. American hopes settle on Corey Deuel, who dropped a Thursday night set to Jayson Shaw, and five-time titlist Strickland.

Hallelujah: Winners Sing Out as IPT Field Narrows, Grows Richer

Jubilant shouts and the deep thud of cue butts slamming the floor echoed through the Venetian Hotel and Casino on Thursday night as 18 pool players took another step closer to the $350,000 top prize at the $2 million IPT North American 8-Ball Open – and another 18 saw their dreams cut short.

“Haalllloooooooo!” cried Efren Reyes, as he sank the winning 8 in a must-win hill-hill match against Mick Hill of the U.K., and pumped his fists to the ceiling. He punctuated his triumphant shout with a relieved chuckle, as he watched the cue ball come an inch from scratching in the corner.

“YES!” shouted Englishman Darren Appleton, upon hearing that bracket imate Cory Deuel had lost his last match of the day, leaving the door open for his own ascension into the next round.

“Thank you! Thank you! See you tomorrow, everybody! Yiiiii yiiiiiii!” shrieked Ronato Alcano of the Philippines, after his stats were posted on the official scoreboard and he saw that he beat America Dee Adkins for the third sport in his bracket by a percentage point.

After a 12-hour day of round-robin play, the field of 36 players in round four winnowed to 18, who were guaranteed $30,000 each by virtue of advancing to the fifth round of play. Their 18 eliminated compatriots pocketed a none-too-shabby $17,000.

The Filipino contingent continued its dominance and bettered it chances for claiming the championship, placing seven players in the last 18: Reyes, Alcano, Francisco Bustamante, Marlon Manalo, Dennis Orcollo, Alex Pagulayan and Rodolpho Luat.

The U.S. placed three players in the fifth round with Gabe Owen, Larry Nevel and David Matlock. The U.K. is two strong with Appleton and Daryl Peach. Germany’s last two hopes were Thorsten Hohmann and Ralf Souquet. The remaining four players were Evgeny Stalev of Russia, Australia’s Quentin Hann, and Sweden’s Marcus Chamat, and Rico Diks, representing the Netherlands

As the clock rounded 8 p.m., it was gut-check time for several players who had recorded records of 2-2 and needed a win in their final match for a shot at advancing. Players took their turns in front of the tournament’s billboard-sized scoreboard, nervously drawing numbers in the air as they tried to figure out the calculus of the bracket and how they would fare in different scenarios.

Players on the bubble with 2-2 records included Reyes, matched against Hill (1-3); Alex Pagulayan, playing against fellow Filipino Dennis Orcollo (3-1); and Deuel, set against Filipino Marlon Manalo (3-1). Matches that paired players with identical 2-2 records included Frenchman Yannick Beaufils vs. Niels Feijen of the Netherlands; American Earl Strickland vs. Alcano; and Francisco Bustamante vs. Santos Sambajon, both of the Philippines.

American Gabe Owen was stuck in a must-win position from the third match of the day. He faced fearsome Filipinos Bustamante and Sambajon in his first two matches and lost both of them. He needed to win the next three matches to have a hope of advancing.

“I just thought, screw it – just let it go. You only live once, just do it,” Owen said.

He proceeded to beat Reyes, 8-6; then Hill, 8-6; and in the longest match of the fifth set, Ivica Putnik of Croatia, 8-5. Sinking the last 8, he yelled and pumped his fist at jackhammer speed.

“My feet are killing me,” he said afterwards.

One of three Americans left in the field, Owen felt he had a shot at the title. “I feel like 8-ball is my best game, and I’m getting underrated here,” he said. “I’ve been practicing nothing but my 8-ball break for the last six months. Even in 9-ball tournaments, I’ve been breaking from the box. Screw $5,000 for winning a 9-ball tournament when you can win on the IPT.”

Stalev of Russia already knew what he would do with the $350,000. “I promised my friend [IPT member] Fabio Petroni that we would go on a vacation to Hawaii with five girls,” he said.

Stalev was one of the few players whose record was strong enough by early evening to count on advancing. Others were not as lucky.

“The pressure … the pressure … the hunger … I’m so tired,” said the rail-thin Alcano after squeaking by Strickland, 8-7, in their 8 p.m. match. He tossed his cue in the air, caught it and then did a stiff jig as Strickland packed up his cue case and ignored repeated requests for an on-camera interview by IPT staff.

Even countryman Reyes, perhaps the best big-money player in history, felt the pressure and dogged several shots in his 8-7 win against Hill. He often appeared listless and confused, and several observers opined that the rugged, five-match-a-day schedule was getting to the 51-year-old Hall of Famer.

“I don’t feel tired, … I feel the pressure because I’m in danger,” he said. “My opponent played good. Every time he got a shot, he ran out. In the last game, it was too much pressure for me. I didn’t know what to do in the last game. That’s why I was just shoot, shoot, shoot.”

IPT Round Three Complete

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Despite some strong opposition from European players, including the surprising contingent of English 8-ballers, the always tough Filipinos are dominating the history-making IPT North American 8-Ball Open.

Virtually every Filipino competitor who started in the 200-player field has made it through to the 36-man fourth round of play – nine altogether, including three Pinoy hopefuls who needed to win qualifiers to gain entry to the $2 million tournament.

Leading the pack, as usual, was legendary Efren “Bata” Reyes, whose overall record stood at 12-1 after three days of round-robin play. No less impressive was the ball-control mastery of Filipino Marlon Manalo, who held an identical 12-1 record, along with Germany’s Ralf Souquet and Rafael Martinez of Mexico.

Third-round play began on Wednesday at the Venetian Hotel and Casino with the remaining 60 players divied into 12 groups of five. The top three in each group would advance to the fourth round on Thursday with a guarantee of at least $17,000 in prize money; the eliminated players would collect a still-impressive $10,000 each.

By 9:45 p.m., the lucky 36 were known. Their names follow, grouped by country, with their third-round records:

USA: Dee Adkins, 4-0; Jason Kirkwood, 3-1; Earl Strickland, 3-1; Cory Deuel, 4-0; Shawn Putnam, 3-1; Rodney Morris, 3-1; Larry Nevel, 3-1; Gabe Owen, 2-2; and David Matlock, 2-2.

Philippines: Efren Reyes, 4-0; Marlon Manalo, 4-0; Francisco Bustamante, 2-2; Dennis Orcollo, 3-1; Antonio Lining, 4-0; Rodolfo Luat, 2-2; Alex Pagulayan, 3-1; Santos Sambajon, 2-2; and Ronato Alcano, 2-2.

United Kingdom: Rico Diks, 2-2; Raj Hundal, 1-3; Daryl Peach, 2-2; Darren Appleton, 2-2; Mick Hill, 3-1.

Netherlands: Niels Feijen, 3-1; Alex Lely, 3-1; and Nick Van den Berg, 3-1.

Germany: Ralf Souquet, 4-0; and Thorsten Hohmann, 3-1.

Other countries: Quinten Hann (Australia), 2-2; Ivica Putnik (Croatia), 2-2; Mika Immonen (Finland), 3-1; Sandor Tot (Italy), 2-2; Yannick Beaufils (France), 2-2; Rafael Martinez (Mexico), 4-0; Evgeny Stalev (Russia), 2-2; and Marcus Chamat (Sweden), 3-1.

Here are some highlights from the round:

* The biggest eye-opener for many established players at the Open has been the success of the top competitors on the English 8-ball circuit, including perennial champions Mick Hill and Darren Appleton. Both will compete in the round-of-36.

“Us lads have come to play the top players from around the world, and I feel that we haven’t been given a chance,” said 26-year-old Hill. “The point that us English lads want to get across to everyone, including our own back home, is that we’re playing 8-ball, not 9-ball or straight-pool. … A lot of people don’t realize that the English players play 8-ball.”

Among their strengths are excellent cue ball control and solid stroke mechanics, said observers.

“Those guys shoot very straight, and I can respect that,” said IPT member Ike Runnels.

* Fifteen women started the competition on Sunday, and only former snooker stars Allison Fisher and Karen Corr were given much of a chance to advance. One woman was able to infiltrate the third round, and she was a U.K. native, but no one you might expect.

“I sort of in a way proved a point,” said Sarah Ellerby, who collected dozens of 8-ball titles in England before coming to the U.S. to compete on the WPBA Classic Tour. “…There wasn’t as much attention on me as on the other girls, and that’s fine.

“I’m sure that some of the guys were like, ‘The women won’t do well here,’” Ellerby said. “If I could break better, I feel like I could really make more of a dent. I think the women are capable enough to come here and do well.”

Unfortunately, Ellerby fell into a tough bracket in the third round and finished with a 1-3 record. Knowing she wouldn’t advance, Ellerby immediately left for the Las Vegas airport to catch an 11:30 p.m. United Airlines flight to Chicago. There, she would catch a limo for a two-hour drive to Peoria, the site of the WPBA Midwest Classic, which was starting play Thursday morning.

“I’m going to be very tired,” she said.

* Staying on the English for another moment, sharp observers might note that Raj Hundal advanced with a 1-3 record. It’s no misprint. Hundal was in a bracket with players who posted 4-0 and 3-1 records (Reyes and Strickland), leaving the other three players with 1-3 tallies. Of the three, Hundal had the highest games-won percentage (56.49 percent, just over American Gary Abood’s 55.09 percent), which pushed him into the next round. That 1.4 percent difference was worth at least $7,000.

“I’m in! I’m in!” the burly Hundal screamed upon hearing the results. “I’m freewheeling tomorrow! … I’m the luckiest [expletive] in the world!”

* Another surprise at the end of the day was how many players who were forced to qualify for the event ended up in the round-of-36. The 200-player field offered 50 qualifiers, and no fewer than nine made it into the fourth round. They included Filipinos Luat, Sambajon and Alcano.

* Most of the favorites remained in the running for the fourth round, with one major exception. American Johnny Archer faded in his bracket, finishing with a 1-3 record.

IPT Round Three: The Plot Thickens as the Field Thins

Round three starts today in the International Pool Tour’s North American Open and already 17,066 games have been played. Fatigue certainly played a role yesterday with 120 players facing a $5,000 difference in payout as they were whittled down to 60 in 12 straight hours of 8-ball action. The 60 remaining contenders who advanced to round three have been placed into 12 groups of five players each. Three players from each group will advance to the next round. The 24 who are eliminated will receive a lovely parting gift of $10,000.

Here’s a breakdown of yesterday’s highlights:

Mike Sigel was eliminated with a 2-3 record after losses to Marlon Manalo, Marko Lohtander and Quinten Hann. “The Mouth” settled for 61st and a $5,000 consolation prize.

The female players are near extinction, survived only by Sarah Ellerby who edged out Corey Harper by less than one percentage point in win average to advance to round three. Both Loree Jon Jones and Allison Fisher went winless in round two, and Gerda Hofstatter was eliminated with only one win.

Only eight players went undefeated throughout yesterday’s round, including three Americans: David Matlock, Nick Varner, and Charlie Williams. Also unscathed: Australian Quinten Hann, Filipino Santos Sambajon, Mexican Rafael Martinez, Mika Immonen of Finland, and Ivica Putnik of Croatia.

The Filipino contingent is now down three men, with Warren Kiamco and Gandy Valle eliminated after round two, and Jose Parica eliminated after round one. Still, 10 of the original 13 remain and most dominated their groups. Francisco Bustamante fell to Efren Reyes, but has the highest winning percentage of the entire field at 73.68 percent. (Johnny Archer is second with 70 percent.)

Snooker superstar Ronnie O’Sullivan held on by the skin of his teeth, with only two wins, but advanced on the merit of his winning percentage. On the other hand, Takeshi Okumura missed out on advancing by 0.03 percent to Larry Nevel.

Veterans Allen Hopkins, Kim Davenport, Keith McCready are all heading home. George San Souci and Tony Chohan went winless in round two. Other notables who are heading home with $5,000 consolation prizes: Danny Basavich, Jeremy Jones, George Breedlove and Oliver Ortmann.

Round three is upon us, and each player will play five matches among formidable fields. Here’s a quick analysis:

Ellerby will have to face two top Americans: Gabe Owen and Charlie Williams and two Filipinos: Marlon Manolo and Ronato Alcano. Good luck!

Earl Strickland is alive and well in the tournament, but grouped with Raj Hundal and Efren Reyes, the recently inducted Hall-of-Famer will have to fight hard to see another day.

German Thorsten Hohmann is by far the biggest name in his group, but will face Mick Hill, a promising British 8-baller.

Check out this group: Break-and-run Bustamante, Undefeated Ozzy Quinten Hann, 8-Ball Boy Wonder Karl Boyes, Prince of Pool Cory Deuel, and Bad Boy O’Sullivan. Yikes!

Mika Immonen and John Schmidt will face off in their group — undoubtedly there will be some good-looking pool played there.

“Yikes!” or “Whew…”: IPT North American Groupings Announced

“Yikes!” or “Whew…”: IPT North American Groupings Announced
Jul 14, 2006, 9:44 AM

Several top pool pros won’t be sleeping too soundly for the next week, now that they know the identities of their opponents in the first round of the International Pool Tour’s North American 8-Ball Open Championship.

Among those who might have trouble catching some “zees” are Karen Corr, Cory Deuel, Charles “Hillbilly” Bryant, and Kim Davenport. On the other hand, Allison Fisher and 13-year-old Austin Murphy look to be pretty well rested.

The $2 million, 200-player event — with a $350,000 first-place prize — kicks off Sunday, July 23, at the Venetian in Las Vegas, Nev.

The IPT announced the first-round groupings — composed of 40 sets of five players each — on Thursday. After round-robin play, the top three finishers in each group will proceed to the next round. Eliminated players from the first round will each receive $2,000.

The complete list of groupings is available at the IPT Web site: www.internationalpooltour.com.

However, we’ll point out a few of the more remarkable first-round matchups to get the inevitable debate and buzz started. In no particular order:

Group 20 — International Incident
A big-time pro is going home with $2,000 — and the lonely, agonizing plane ride could be transcontinental. The round’s toughest group is topped by former world 9-ball champions Mika Immonen (Finland) and Oliver Ortmann (Germany). They’re closely followed by tough-as-nails American Charles “Hillbilly” Bryant and the wily Gandy Valle from the Philippines. If “Gentleman” Jim Raney (USA) can make it out of this group, he deserves a $10,000 bonus.

Group 14 — Cakewalk
It’s dangerous to call any group a “gimme,” because there are so many relatively unknown international players in the IPT. You can bet there will be several surprises along the way. But Brit snooker and 9-ball ace Allison Fisher looks like a lock to get past group 14, populated by middling and/or obscure players Grady Matthews (USA), Andreja Klasovic (Serbia/Montenegro), Marko Lohtander (Finland), and Jeff Abernathy (USA).

Group 32 — Dogfight of the Sleepers
Fans might not know all these names, but one or two of these guys are sure to be around late in the event. The group features rough road player Steve Moore (USA), 2006 Derby City Master of the Table winner Jason Miller (USA), resurgent 9-ball pro Kim Davenport (USA), and Canadian aces Paul Potier and Tyler Edey.

Group 18 — Bloodbath
A top player is going to go down here. This one looks like the semifinals roster from a Reno Open, with multitalented Shannon Daulton (USA) facing off against Canadian stalwart (and, coincidentally, 2005 Reno Open winner) Ronnie Wiseman, former BD Player of the Year Cory Deuel (USA), Chicago 8-ball machine Ike Runnels, and sneaky veteran Pete Fusco (USA).

Group 2 — No Rest for the Invader
Ireland’s Karen Corr will have her work cut out for her against Holland’s top pro Niels Feijen, China’s no-nonsense Wei-Liu, underrated 8-baller Greg Hogue (USA) and Hall-of-Famer Ray Martin. But Corr went 4-1 in the first round of December’s IPT King of the Hill event, so look for her to pass with honors.

Group 5 — Let’s go, Austin!
Okay, we’re (unofficially) rooting for 13-year-old Austin Murphy, who is no slouch, by the way. He just won his second consecutive title at the BCA Junior Nationals, and he can hold his own against the big guys. He has an excellent chance to get out of his first-round group, where he will face Danny Basavich (USA), Hall-of-Famer Ewa Laurance (USA), and little-known qualifiers Sam Monday (USA) and Anthony Ginn (England).