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IPT World Open Preview: Talented Tots Wu and Ouschan to Debut

The big news in the first round of the International Pool Tour’s latest multi-million dollar 8-ball tournament will be the debuts of young superstars Chia-Ching Wu of Taiwan and Jasmin Ouschan of Austria, both looking for a big piece of the record-setting $3 million purse.

The eight-day 8-ball event — with a precedent-setting $500,000 first-place prize — kicks off Sunday, Sept. 3, at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nev.

Both 17-year-old Wu and 20-year-old Ouschan earned entry into the tournament through the IPT’s rugged qualifier process, and they’re expected to go deep. The precocious Wu is the current WPA world 9-ball and 8-ball champion, and Ouschan topped the star-studded field at the EnjoyPool.com 9-Ball Championship in May.

Otherwise, it looks like smooth sailing for most of the favorites in the first round of the International Pool Tour’s World 8-Ball Open Championship, as the just-released groupings reveal predominantly balanced matchups for the first two days of the event. Top-ranked players were seeded in the field.

Of course, a few players had cause for muttering under their breaths when the groups were announced early Friday. Of the best-known players, Hall-of-Famers and best buddies Ewa Laurance and Loree Jon Jones appear to have their work cut out for them. For that matter, the groupings did no favors for Ouschan, the only female player to have won a spot in an IPT field through the qualifier process.

Expect some surprises. As the players learned in the IPT’s first event of the 2006 season — the North American Open 8-Ball Championship in July — there are dozens of unheralded 8-ball whizzes out there waiting for their big shot, and the 200-player World field features 50 qualifiers who have already proved their mettle.

Look for surprising runs from several Asian qualifiers who now have their feet in the IPT’s door, including Wu from Taiwan (who was seeded 16th in the absence of Filipino Rodolfo Luat), and his countryman Hui-Kai Hsia, a two-time world juniors champion.

The first round will feature 40 groups of five players each. After round-robin play, the top three finishers in each group will proceed to the second round. Eliminated players from the first round will each receive a whopping $5,000.

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

Here are some of the more intriguing brackets from the first round:

Bracket 23 — BD Bloodbath Special: Spectators looking for an exciting bracket to follow should check out this group. No superstars, just tough and hungry veterans: Ivica Putnik (Croatia), Thomas Engert (Germany), Tony Chohan (USA), Tony Drago (Malta), and Zlatko Jakulj (Croatia)

Bracket 1: German sensation Thorsten Hohmann received the top seed by virtue of his $350,000 win at the North American Open, joined here by talented American Steve Moore, Filipino toughie Warren Kiamco, and Americans Jim Raney and Loree Jon Jones. Jones, who survived the first round at the North American Open, will have to bring her “A” game here.

Bracket 26: Austria’s Jasmin Ouschan must contend with Hall-of-Famer Earl Strickland, Swedish veteran Tom Storm, Aruba national champion Roland Acosta and American Pete Fusco. Ouschan regularly hones her skills against the best male players in Europe, so don’t expect her to be intimidated by Strickland, or anyone else in the field, for that matter,

Bracket 18: Hall-of-Famer Ewa Laurance will have her hands full with Australia’s Quinten Hann, the snooker bad boy who finished a surprising 18th at the North American Open; snooker ace Ronnie O’Sullivan from the U.K.; and Jeremy Jones (USA) and Jose Parica (Philippines), both experienced champions who met untimely exits at the North American Open. This bracket will be a dog fight.

Bracket 35: Future Hall-of-Famer Allison Fisher, who was undefeated in the first round of the North American Open, once again has a clean look at the second round. But watch out for qualifier Hui-Kai Hsia of Taiwan and surprising Frenchman Yannick Beaufils. Tough Americans Teddy Garrahan and John Ditoro round out the group, and neither will play patsy.

Bracket 10: Once again, 13-year-old Austin Murphy has a good shot at leaving the first round, this time sharing a bracket with 10th-ranked Darren Appleton (U.K.), Paul Potier (Canada), George San Souci (USA) and Ouahbi Amine (Morocco). Murphy missed the second round at the North American Open by a single rack, losing an 8-7 nailbiter to Danny Basavich. Let’s go, Austin.

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.

Third Round Brings All-Star Match-ups at the Reno Open

The 2006 Reno Open is underway at the Sands Regency in Reno, Nev., yielding a field of 156 players.

Tournament coordinator Mick McMillin said that the number of players at the tournament, usually at or above the 200 mark, has decreased this year due to the International Pool Tour qualifiers.

Nonetheless, some great pool is being played. The third round brought about several marquis matches, including a match between longtime friends Gabe Owen and Jeremy Jones. Jones now has the upperhand, defeating his friend, 9-5.

Edwin Montal came up against Rodney Morris in the third round, besting him, 9-2, and Dennis Orcollo sent Cory Deuel to the one-loss side, 9-5.

Kim Davenport remains undefeated in the fourth round, and will match up against Filipino Jose Parica. Young Austin Murphy also remains on the winners’ side, winning his first three matches, and will face Bobby Hunter today.

Predator Florida Open Turns To 10-Ball

The 6th Annual Predator Florida Open began on May 25 at the Hyatt Regency in Jacksonville, bringing in 73 players, a third of which were non-Americans.

The first round saw several big names drop to the one-loss side, including Earl Strickland, Johnny Archer, Gabe Owen, Ralf Souquet and Rodney Morris.

Strickland was ahead in the entire match against Go Takami, but he turned on the afterburners at the end, pulling ahead to win 9-8. Archer trailed the whole match against the speedy Sparky Ferrell, who won 9-7. Owen also lost a 9-7 match to local favorite Butch Croft.

Souquet, who just won the Enjoypool.com 9-Ball Championship the weekend before, lost to Dennis Hatch, 9-7, who is also in the midst of a hot streak. Morris lost a close 9-7 match to Rodolfo Luat. Jeremy Jones made it to round two, defeating Rocky McElroy, 9-3, but couldn’t rally against an 8-4 deficit against Thomas Engert.

The Florida Open, sponsored by Predator, has changed its format for the first time in its six-year lifespan, to 10-ball, race-to-9, with alternating breaks. One significant modification has been established, however, so that If the 10 ball is made on the break in the two closest corner pockets to the rack, it will not count as a win. It will count only as a pocketed ball and the player will continue his inning.

“All pro events should move to 10-ball. It should just be automatic,” said Owen. “Now strategy, cue ball control, kicks, banks, and even shotmaking becomes more into play. Any good player that thinks he can compete with the pros should push for playing 10-ball.”

The Winners, And Still Champions

It didn’t take long for Team USA to finish off Team Europe on the final day of the 2005 Mosconi Cup at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Entering Day Four, Team USA, winner of nine of the previous 11 US vs Europe team challenges, needed a single win from a possible six singles matches.

As was expected, Team Europe, needing a clean sweep, sent out its strongest player and captain, Mika Immonen of Finland first Sunday morning. The US, with the luxury of being able to save its top players for later in the day, answered with Mosconi debutante Shawn Putnam. Putman had lobbied with US captain Johnny Archer for the chance to play first on the final day, with hopes of sending home the title-clinching 9 ball. But a missed opportunity prevented Putnam from breaking Immonen’s serve in the alternating-break, race-to-five match, and was forced to watch Immonen post a clean runout from the break in the deciding game for a 5-4 win. Immonen’s win narrowed the US lead to 10-6.

But Jeremy Jones, who had struggled through the first days of the four-day event, found himself in a familiar position against Germany’s Thorsten Hohmann. With a chance to repeat his Mosconi-ending shot at the MGM in 2003, Jones took advantage of Hohmann’s empty break shot in the case rack, forcing the German to kick at the 1 ball, then ran out from the resulting position to nail down Team USA’s 10th win in 12 tries.

“We’re changing Jeremy’s nickname to “The Closer,” said Earl Strickland, who earned the Mosconi Cup Most Valuable Player trophy for his perfect 5-0 record.

“Nobody on either team played exceptionally well this week, except for Earl and Rodney,” said Archer. “But it’s weeks like this where you play with heart and do what you have to do to win. And this team showed a lot of heart.”

Team USA Puts the Hammer Down

Team USA captain Johnny Archer couldn’t wait for the action to commence on Day Three of the 2005 Mosconi Cup in Las Vegas. With his team holding a 6-4 lead in the 12th annual edition of the transatlantic 9-ball clash, Archer knew he could stack his line-up for the three doubles and two singles matches.

The only Americans who had yet to play singles were heavy-hitters Rodney Morris and Earl Strickland. They would be matched up against Holland’s Alex Lely and Sweden’s Marcus Chamat, the only Euros who’d yet to see singles action.

“We set today’s line-up to sweep all five matches and end this tournament right now,” Archer said of the race-to-11 format. “As long as we were ahead during the first two days, I wanted to save Rodney and Earl for today. And I could put them in the doubles match between their two singles matches. The Europeans will have to face them three matches in a row. Then, we’ll close the day with me and Jeremy (Jones). We’re going for the kill.”

Archer’s plan almost worked to perfection, as Team USA , despite dropping the first match of the day, rolled to four wins and now teeter on the brink of their 10th Mosconi Cup title in the 12-year history of the event.

Having lost five of the first six doubles matches, Team Europe juggled its pairings for Saturday’s action. Captain Mika Immonen of Finland paired the Dutch duo of Alex Lely and Neils Feijen, and placed newcomer Raj Hundal of England with Germany’s Thorsten Hohmann.

The move paid immediate dividends when Lely and Feijen topped the American duo of Charlie Williams and Shawn Putnam, 5-3, to narrow the US’s overall lead to a single match, 6-5.

Things continued to look promising for the Euros when Lely, playing flawlessly after a shaky opening day, opened a 3-1 lead over Morris. But a positional error and miss allowed Morris to tie the match at 3-3, and a scratch on the break when leading 4-3 signaled Lely’s last trip to the table. Morris cleaned up that rack, and ran out from the break for a 5-4 win to give the US another two-match cushion.

From there, the US floodgates opened. Strickland and Morris continued their unbeaten streak as teammates with a convincing 5-2 beating of Immonen and Chamat, and Strickland raced through a 5-2 pounding of Chamat in singles. The team of Archer and Jones then pushed the US to the hill with a solid 5-3 win over Hundal and Hohmann.
The final day of the Mosconi Cup will consist solely of single matches, with the US needing just one win to secure the trophy.

A Day On The HIll At Mosconi Cup

On a day filled with tight matches, Team USA gained a two-match lead over Team Europe, 6-4, Friday at the 12th Annual Mosconi Cup in Las Vegas, although both squads will likely spend a restless night reliving missed opportunities that could have impacted the match score.

Bucking the trend of previous Mosconi Cups, Team USA won all three of its doubles matches on Day Two of the race-to-11 transatlantic 9-ball clash, while dropping both of its singles contests. And in both instances, American players all but handed the match to their Euro counterparts. Shawn Putnam, fresh off an opening match doubles win, squandered numerous opportunities and a 3-0 lead in dropping a 5-4 match to England’s Raj Hundal. And Jeremy Jones, coming off a doubles win with US captain Johnny Archer, bungled his way out of four elementary run-outs in a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to Germany’s Thorsten Hohmann.

But the Americans swept through doubles play, with Putnam and Charlie Williams besting Hohmann and Holland’s Neils Feijen, and Jones and Archer topping Euro captain Mika Immonen and Sweden’s Marcus Chamat by identical 5-4 margins.

In the day’s final match, Earl Strickland played the perfect gentleman with partner Rodney Morris in a convincing 5-2 win over Hundal and Holland’s Alex Lely. The Euros held an early 2-0 advantage, and threatened in game three, before a miss by Lely opened the floodgates for a five-rack US assault.

Strickland, who had battled fans during his Day One match, and unleashed an expletive-laced barrage during a live on-air interview, explained his change of heart.

“I need to stay more under control,” Strickland said after the match. “Because my emotions hurt my teammate. But I just think every player here deserves equal respect when they’re playing. These are the best players in the world.

“But I’ll tell you,” he added, “There will never be another one of me. I guess that’s why I’m always introduced as ‘The One and Only,'”

Comeback, Blowup Highlight Mosconi Day One!

After dropping the opening two matches on the first day of the 2005 Mosconi Cup, Team USA charged back with three consecutive wins, highlighted by a contentious 5-4 doubles victory, to earn a 3-2 lead at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The transatlantic team event features two new twists for 2005, a 30-second shot clock and alternating singles-doubles matches. Because the event is carried live throughout the United Kingdom on Sky Sports, the format features one five-hour block of matches each day. The shortened TV window forced promoter Matchroom Sport to cut the 2005 Mosconi to a race to 11. To assure each player opportunities for singles play, Matchroom is running a three doubles matches, with two singles matches sandwiched in between.

The event opened with Thorsten Hohmann of Germany and Neils Feijen of Holland thumping the American duo of captain Johnny Archer and Jeremy Jones, 5-1. Euro captain Mika Immonen then beat Archer in singles, 5-2, to give Europe a quick 2-0 match lead.

But the Americans stormed back with Cup newcomer Shawn Putnam and Charlie Williams bouncing 24-year-old Raj Hundal of England and Alex Lely of Holland, 5-3. Williams, not traditionally a strong performer in the Mosconi Cup, continued his powerful Day One performance with a convincing 5-3 singles win over Feijen to draw the Americans even, 2-2.

As if scripted, the day’s finale, pitting the U.S. duo of Earl Strickland and Rodney Morris (unbeaten in 2004) against Immonen and Sweden’s Marcus Chamat, evolved into drama-filled cat fight. The Americans free-wheeled to a 4-0 lead, then withstood a furious Euro rally that knotted the match at 4-4. During the match, the pro-Euro and pro-American fans took turns pushing the good-taste envelope, and Strickland got into one of his patented verbal sparring matches with several fans.

The Euro pair had a chance to complete the comeback, but found themselves hooked shooting at the 5 ball. With their extensions used up (each team is allowed two per rack), Chamat appeared to foul by not attempting his shot before the clock expired. Referee Micheala Tabb awarded the Euros a second chance after ruling that the clock had not given Chamat fair warning. Chamat fouled on his attempt, and the Americans ran out to earn the 5-4 win and a 3-2 match lead at the close of action.

In the post-match interview, aired live in the U.K., Strickland berated the European fans and engaged in a profanity-laced exchange with a female fan in the crowd.

With that, the 2005 Mosconi Cup was off and running. Play will continue Friday with another round of three doubles and two singles matches. For more information on the day’s action, log on to MosconiCup.com

Team Europe Gunning for USA at Mosconi Cup

One of the strongest European teams in years believes that it can dethrone Team USA at the 2005 Mosconi Cup, set to kick off Thursday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev.

The four-day international pool tilt will pit Americans Johnny Archer, Rodney Morris, Shawn Putnam, Jeremy Jones, Earl Strickland and Charlie Williams against a stacked European squad, featuring Mika Immonen, Niels Feijen, Thorsten Hohmann, Raj Hundal, Marcus Chamat and Alex Lely.

The Americans have won nine of the 11 previous Cups, including a 12-9 victory in 2004.

BD Publisher Mike Panozzo notes that, in previous years, Team Europe has been somewhat handicapped by the inclusion of snooker stars and unproven United Kingdom 9-ballers, often included to boost interest and television ratings in the U.K., home of tournament producer Matchroom Sports and primary TV partner Sky Sports. Team Europe has no such hindrances in 2005, and has, in fact, pieced together its most talented squad ever.

However, Panozzo has still picked the USA to win the event this year (and in the process has set off a firestorm of controversy in online chat rooms), based on its overall talent, experience and sense of entitlement.

For up-to-the-minute updates on Mosconi Cup action, go to the event’s Web site at www.mosconicup.com.

Upsets Galore at U.S. Open as Former Champs Drop to One-Loss Bracket

The giants all fell from the winners’ bracket on Friday night at the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship in Chesapeake, Va., as Johnny Archer, Francisco Bustamante, Efren Reyes, Ralf Souquet, Niels Feijen and Jeremy Jones dropped to the one-loss side in the same round of matches.

The carnage started at 9 p.m. Friday with Filipinos Alex Pagulayan and Francisco Bustamante lagging on the TV table. The wily Pagulayan jumped to a quick 5-0 lead, allowing his foe near the table only once – and that was for a push. Regaining his world-beating form after two years of ho-hum play, the resurgent Bustamante rocketed back to take the lead at 9-8, but a hung 4 ball in the 18th rack brought Pagulayan back to the table, where he ran out and then ran the next two racks for an 11-9 victory.

“At the end I got lucky with the 4 ball,” Pagulayan said. “That was the key to the match. I was thinking when it was 8-8, just give me one more chance.”

On the next table over, Filipino expatriate Jose Parica kept one step ahead of countryman and longtime rival Reyes to win, 11-9. Reyes was joined soon on the one-loss side by several other former Open champions: Johnny Archer fell to Troy Frank, 11-6; Jeremy Jones lost to Andreas Roschkowsky, 11-9; and Ralf Souquet dropped a hill-hill slugfest with upstart Sylver Ochoa, 11-10.

This was all in the same round, mind you, and all within an hour of each other. Other significant winners’-bracket results from the 9 p.m. round included Nick Van den Berg smashing Charlie “Hillbilly” Bryant, 11-4; Viet Nam native Tang Hoa elbowing Holland’s Feijen, 11-8; and Charlie Williams halting Ernesto Dominguez.

That left eight men still in the winners’ bracket, and dozens left to brave the extraordinarily deep one-loss bracket in this field-of-256 competition with a $200,000 prize fund. At 3 p.m. EST, Tang will play Roschkowsky, Pagulayan will face Frank, Van den Berg will meet Parica, and Williams will lag against Ochoa.