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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.”

Thirty-one Countries Vie for World Dominance in Wales

National pride is at stake at the PartyPoker.com World Cup of Pool, taking place now at the Newport Centre in Newport, Wales. Pressure is high as the scotch doubles matches are played on a straight knock-out basis.

The first round began on Aug. 22, with 32 two-man teams working together to represent their country. Thailand, represented by Tepwin Arunnath and Amnuayporn Chotipong, fell to Canadians Luc Salvas and Tyler Edey, 9-5. Team Qatar (Fahad Mohammadi and Bashar Hussain) was stymied by Malaysians Patrick Ooi Fook Yuen and Ibrahim Bin Amir, 9-3. And in an inter-continental contest, the Czech Republic, represented by Roman Hybler and Michal Gavenciak, defeated Poland’s Radoslaw Babica and Mariusz Roter.

The Phillipines, represented by Efren Reyes and Francisco Bustamante, were the clear crowd favorites, and rose to the occasion in round one, with a 9-0 massacre over Malta’s Tony Drago and Alex Borg. It was a tight battle between Taiwan’s Wang Hung-hsiang and Yang Ching-shun and India’s Dharminder Lilly and Alok Kumar. The tiny island nation prevailed, 9-6.

England has two teams in the running, one of which is represented by Steve Davis and Daryl Peach. It was 5-5 before the Brits were able to pull ahead of Jeong Young-hwa and Lee Gun-jae of Team Korea. On Davis’ 49th birthday, he joyously accepted their 9-6 victory.

In the second day of play on Wednesday, Aug. 23, Russia’s Konstantin Stepanov and Konstantin Zolotilov starved Hungary’s Vilmos Foldes and Gabor Solymosi of opportunities, defeating them 9-3.

Hong Kong produced a heroic performance to stun sixth- seeded Sweden in the biggest shock thus far in the PartyPoker.com World Cup of Pool. Sweden, whose side consisted of former World Championship finalist Tom Storm and former World Championship semi-finalist Marcus Chamat, had been 4-1, 6-2, and 8-5 ahead in the race-to-9. But the Hong Kong pairing of Lee Chenman and Kong Man-Ho showed their character to win the last four racks to secure a place in the final 16.

Team Japan, Maasaki Tanaka and Satoshi Kawabata obliterated Indonesia’s Imran Ibrahim and Ricky Yang, 9-0. While the English “A” team of Ronnie O’Sullivan and Raj Hundal, didn’t have it quite so easy against Spain’s David Alcaide and Rafael Guzman. The crowd was gutted as the duo fell to a fast 4-0 deficit, but had their hopes back up as England got their nose in front at 8-7, but the Spaniards took the final two racks to close out a famous victory.

Team U.S.A. is composed of Rodney Morris and Earl Strickland, who had a decided victory over Singapore. The home team, Rob McKenna and Ben Davies of Wales, disappointed their fan base with a heart-breaking 9-2 loss to Germany (Thomas Engert and Oliver Ortmann).

Today, Aug. 24, three matches are left to determine the final 16. This morning, Ireland had no luck against Finland’s Mika Immonen and Markus Juva, heading home after a 9-5 loss.

The first matches of round two will begin tonight, with No. 1-ranked Phillipines and No. 3-ranked U.S.A. taking on their respective opponents. For up-to-the minute coverage at www.partypoker.com!

And Then There Were Six: Heavy Favorites Make Beeline for Final IPT Round-Robin

The cream has risen to the top of the field at the IPT North American 8-Ball Open, and six well-known players look to get significantly richer in the next round.

After 12 hours of round-robin play on Friday, a half dozen players separated themselves from the pack of 18 remaining shooters, in some cases by mere inches on the table, or percentages point on the official stat sheet. Those deserving six stand to make a minimum of $40,000 in the next round, and a maximum of $350,000 for winning the title at Sunday’s final.

The players are: Efren Reyes, Marlon Manalo, and Dennis Orcollo of the Philippines; Thorsten Hohmann and Ralf Souquet of Germany; and Evgeny Stalev of Russia;

Stalev was probably the biggest surprise of the bunch. The 26-year-old from Litkarino, 20 miles outside of Moscow, rarely ventures outside his home country for pool events, beyond the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships and Derby City Classic. But he’s a legend in Russia, having won nearly 100 titles in the cue sport of pyramid.

The reedy Stalev found himself in a must-win situation in the fifth and final match of the day, against plucky Englishman Darren Appleton. He took control of the match from the start, using his powerful break (with full-body extension) to gain control of the table, and his surgical-quality touch to pilot the cue ball.

With Stalev up 7-4, his close friend Fabrio Petroni of Italy began nudging fellow spectators in the stands, saying in a dramatic stage whisper, “That is my friend. I know him. He is a very good player!” Stalev closed the match at 8-4, leaving Appleton slumped in his chair for several minutes with his head in his hands.

“It was tough,” Stalev said. “Every opponent right now is tough. … I feel terrible. My back, my legs. The whole week, you wake up and play 10 hours a day.”

He quickly grabbed his cell phone and called his father back in Russia, and then his manager.

Meanwhile, Hohmann and Sweden’s Marcus Chamat were fighting on an adjoining table for the final spot in their bracket. Chamat led 7-5 and had three solids left on the table when he ended up straight-in on the 2. His only choice was to draw straight back on the shot, hooking himself on the 6. After a missed multi-rail Hail Mary, Hohmann took over the table and didn’t let go until he had the 8-7 victory.

The final set of matches for the night were anticlimactic for three players: Reyes was undefeated at 4-0 and a sure thing to advance; and Souquet and Manalo could afford to lose their matches, knowing that at worst they would tie with their respective bracketmates and still advance on the basis of their superior games-won percentage.

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.”

Groups for Round Five: The Final 18

Here they are, folks: the final 18 players at the $2 million IPT North American 8-Ball Open. Play in round six will start at 10 a.m. on the West Coast. The top two players in each bracket will advance to the next round, where the prize money will start at $40,000. The winner of the event will collect $350,000.

Group 1
Quentin Hann, Australia
Evgeny Stalev, Russia
Efren Reyes, Philippines
Larry Nevel, USA
Darren Appleton, U.K.
Rodolpho Luat, Philippines

Group 2
Francisco Bustamante, Philippines
David Matlock, USA
Daryl Peach, U.K.
Dennis Orcollo, Philippines
Ronato Alcano, Philippines
Ralf Souquet, Germany

Group 3
Marlon Manalo, Philippines
Alex Pagulayan, Philippines
Thorsten Hohmann, Germany
Marcus Chamat, Sweden
Gabe Owen, USA
Rico Diks, U.K.

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.

Immonen Rises to Eminence at First Norwegian 9-Ball Challenge

The Norwegian 9-Ball Challenge, a first-time tournament, attracted several of the best players in the world including Tony Drago, Niels Feijen, Raj Hundal, Jasmin Ouschan and Marcus Chamat to Oslo, Norway, July 12-15. It was not surprising that two former World Pool Champions rose to the top, with Mika Immonen from Finland facing German Oliver Ortmann in the final. The pool powers that be were not on Ortmann’s side and Immonen was in top form, taking the title, 9-4.

The event took place at ElbowRoom, a posh poolroom in Oslo. The format divided the field into 16 groups in which a round-robin format was used. Almost half the field was dismissed by day three and a single-elimination format went into effect with the final 64.

Immonen took home $7,500 Euros for his efforts. Bronze medalists were Brian Beekers from Holland and Kurt Maflin from Norway.

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