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Matchroom Acquires U.S. Open

After several months of questions and speculation, the mystery surrounding the future of the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship has been unveiled. British event producer Matchroom Sport, promoters of the Mosconi Cup, World Pool Masters and World Cup of Pool, has taken over ownership of the world’s longest-running major pool tournament.

According to both Matchroom Sport president Barry Hearn and Brady Behrman, son of the late U.S. Open founder Barry Behrman, a deal was signed that gives Matchroom “complete ownership” of the 42-year-old 9-ball championship.

“There are probably only four or five major pool events out there,” said Hearn in a phone interview with BD. “They may not all even necessarily be profitable events, but they have history and profile. One of them is the U.S. Open. I think Matchroom has most, if not all, of the others. We like to have control of a brand, and our brand is 9-ball.

“We are going to take a historic event and make it mainstream,” Hearn added. “That is our charge.”

Hearn confirmed that the Matchroom-produced 43rd U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship would not take place until 2019, and that the event will shift to Las Vegas and boast an increased prize fund.

“We’re going to smash it up right from the start!” Hearn said.

“This relationship is not about ownership or money,” said Brady Behrman, who assumed control of the U.S. Open with sister Shannon Paschall following Barry Behrman’s death in 2015. “It’s about the event itself and growing pool. Knowing that our father went down this path, and knowing how he cared for the event, the fans, the players, the industry and that he wanted the event bigger and better, there is no doubt that Matchroom will carry on our father’s legacy.

“My dad once said before a finals match, ‘These players should be playing for $100,000, but I can’t do it alone.’ With Matchroom, we’ll see increased prize funds and international expansion of content syndication for the Open, which ultimately grows the event, the purse and the nostalgia of the U.S. Open.” Behrman said he contacted Matchroom in January to gauge their interest in taking over the event.

“Shannon and I are both very busy in our own businesses,” he said. “And we wanted to ensure that we take the steps necessary to elevate the event our father produced for 40 years in an effort to give the players, fans and sponsors something special, something monumental. We can’t make that happen. Matchroom’s vision aligns perfectly with our ideals.”

In fact, Barry Behrman had contacted Hearn nearly four years ago with a similar offer.

“Barry contacted me a few years ago about the Open,” Hearn recalled. “He was enthusiastic and loved being the front man for the event. He wanted someone else to assume the risk, but at the same time he wanted to maintain control. I considered it briefly because I’m a pool fan. But it would have been financial suicide.

“This time it was the right time and the right place,” he added. “The Barry Behrman legacy will live on. We’re going to rename the trophy the Barry Behrman Trophy.”

Questions about the future of the U.S. Open surfaced in February when Behrman informed the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel, site of the U.S. Open for the past three years, that the 2018 event would not be held there. The Sheraton had been holding the week of Oct. 21-27 for the annual tournament. Accu-Stat’s founder Pat Fleming, who had taken over as the event producer for the past two years, said in February that talks with Behrman had gone nowhere and that his future as part of the event — as event and/or live stream producer — was unclear.

Based on that uncertainty, and with the Sheraton about to release the October dates, Fleming announced plans to produce his own international 9-ball event at the Sheraton in the U.S. Open’s stead. [See side story below.] Meanwhile, Hearn pointed to the U.S. Open’s potential as one of the factors in procuring the historically rich tournament.

“The value of the U.S. Open is its history,” the promoter said. “Our goal is to make the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship a global event.

“The sports business is all about perception” Hearn continued. “Perception to the broadcasters and audience and to the public about how big an event is. How big an event is and how it is perceived is all in your hands. When we do big boxing events, the perception is that if you don’t get a ticket on the first day, they’re gone. That snowball works. In darts, we sell 11,000 tickets in 10 minutes. We’ve built the perception that these are must-see events.

“In pool, you can show up whenever, or if, you feel like it. That’s a killer. The Mosconi Cup now shows what you can do in pool. You can create that demand and that perception. In pool in the U.S., there has never been that fear factor that you might miss out.” While increased prize funds and first class production are important, what Matchroom brings to the U.S. Open’s future is broadcast reach that the event has not yet enjoyed. Accu-Stats-produced broadcasting of the U.S. Open over the years has satisfied fans willing to pay to view the event, and rights deals did deliver packaged content to parts of Asia, but the addition of the U.S. Open to Matchroom’s vast portfolio of sporting events ensures a wider audience.

“The U.S. Open will be part of our Sky package,” said Hearn, whose Matchroom Multi Sport portfolio (of which pool is part) recently inked a new seven-year broadcast deal with the European sports cable network. “So, Day One, I know the U.S. Open will be broadcast live in 35 countries.”

And in the U.S.?

“I’m hopeful for the U.S. broadcast market,” he said, adding that the U.S. Open will be aired live in the U.S. in some form or fashion. “We’re almost there. What is changing the dynamic is the packaging of Matchroom as a company. We come in with 12 different sports and 2,000 hours of live coverage. There’s a movement in the digital marketplace. Whether it is ESPN Plus or Turner Broadcasting, there is a need for programming and heightened interest in niche sports.”

Neither side would discuss details of the U.S. Open’s sale, other than to say that the Behrmans were paid a nominal license fee, with potential to share in future profits.

“It’s important that people understand that we didn’t sell out,” Behrman reiterated. “We want to see the U.S. Open grow and go on forever. Reaching out to Matchroom was the best way to make that happen. They will do incredible justice for the event, and for pool in the U.S. and internationally.”

According to Hearn, as part of the deal, Behrman and Paschall will have input, but Matchroom will have the final say on event decisions.

“We will keep the family as part of the event,” Hearn said, “But we have the freedom of ownership to say, ‘This is the way forward.’”

Hearn added that particulars about the U.S. Open under his stewardship are still being worked out, but international qualifiers will be part of the equation.

“We will make the U.S. Open truly global,” he insisted. “I want players from around the world. More importantly, I want people around the world talking about the U.S. Open.

“We have an ego as well,” Hearn said. “We like to grow events. Can we ever get to a $1 million prize fund? One thing players know is that with Matchroom you get paid and you get top money.” As big as the U.S. Open is in America’s pool history, Hearn insists there is much work ahead.

“This is a big job to be done,” he said. The U.S. Open is 42 years old and it hasn’t grown. How do you fill an arena for the U.S. Open like we do for Mosconi? We need the event to be inspirational. We need to inspire. We have to have kids saving their money for their entry fee or to make the trip to Vegas to watch the U.S. Open.

“Do I expect the U.S. Open to be profitable from Day One?” Hearn wondered. “No. But I will spend the money to make sure the U.S. Open is produced properly on Day One. And I’m confident that over a three or four year period we will end up with a major event.”

Fleming Announces New Event in U.S. Open Time Slot

The Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel in Norfolk, Va., will, indeed, host a major pool tournament in late October for the fourth consecutive year. But it will not be the 43rd Annual U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship. Accu-Stats founder and promoter Pat Fleming said he has signed a contact with the Sheraton to run his own international tournament on the dates previously held for the U.S. Open.

Fleming announced his intention to run an event called the U.S. International Open, Oct. 21-17, 2018, at the Sheraton. He did so without knowledge that U.S. Open owners Brady Behrman and Shannon Paschall, the son and daughter of late U.S. Open founder Barry Behrman, were in the midst of selling the U.S. Open to Matchroom Sport.

“The dates were saved with the Sheraton for Oct 21-27, 2018,” said Fleming. “The [World Pool-Billiard Association] blocked those dates on their calendar. We also made some commitments with hotel for risers and such.

“I had to make a decision on the hotel,” Fleming continued. “They loved our event.”

Fleming said he send the Behrmans an email stating his intention to move ahead with his own event.

“I have the support of Diamond Billiard Products and WPA sanctioning,” Fleming said.

Fleming said he plans to restrict the field to 128 players. The prize fund will pay 32 places, and the payout will be the same as the 2017 U.S. Open: $40,000 for first place and $2,250 for 24-32. As with the U.S. Open, the entry fee will be $1,000.

“We will still be paying a quarter of the field,” Fleming said. “And, we will grant free entry to the most recent 10 U.S. Open winners. Players who won prior to that will pay a $500 entry fee. We still want the past champions in the field.”

Partypoker set to sponsor Mosconi Cup XXIV

Matchroom Multi Sport is delighted to announce Partypoker as the title sponsors for the 24th annual Mosconi Cup at Mandalay Bay Resort, Las Vegas from 4th to 7th December.

Partypoker.com is one of the oldest, most recognized and trusted online poker brands. Launched in August 2001, partypoker.com is one of the pioneers of the online poker industry.

The partypoker Mosconi Cup returns to Las Vegas this winter as Team USA look to finally wrestle the famous Cup back from the hands of the Europeans. Renowned coach Johan Ruijsink has taken over the reigns as captain for the hosts, who hope he can have them same impact on America as he did with Europe while Marcus Chamat’s men are out to continue to reign supreme on pool’s greatest stage.

Managing Director of partypoker Tom Waters said: “I am very pleased to announce this partnership with Matchroom Sport that sees partypoker sponsor the Mosconi Cup this December. Partypoker players will have the opportunity to win a trip of a lifetime to Las Vegas. More details will be available soon on partypoker.com!”

Matchroom Sport Chairman Barry Hearn said: “We are delighted partypoker will once again be title sponsors of the Mosconi Cup. They have a long-standing relationship with both Matchroom Sport and the tournament, which is undoubtedly the greatest show in pool.

“This is one of the most eagerly anticipated partypoker Mosconi Cups for years. There is a strong feeling USA can turn the tide in Las Vegas and reclaim the famous trophy from European hands. The stage is set for a thrilling week and we are delighted partypoker are on board once again.”

Partypoker Mosconi Cup XXIV takes place from Monday, December 4th until Thursday, December 7th and will be broadcast live throughout on Sky Sports in the UK. The tournament will have a wide international TV reach, with details of global broadcast partners to be announced in due course.

Tickets for partypoker Mosconi Cup XXIV are available now at www.mosconicup.com. Tickets start from $48 per session with season tickets comprising all four sessions from £161. Premium and VIP packages are also available.

Ruijsink to Coach U.S.

Ruijsink will switch jerseys for the Mosconi Cup.

In a move that was met with mixed reviews, Mosconi Cup promoter Matchroom Sport announced Holland’s Johan Ruijsink as 2017 captain for Team USA. The 50-year-old Ruijsink is well known in Mosconi Cup annals as the undefeated captain for Team Europe, having led the squad seven times between 2006 and 2014. Ruijsink voluntarily stepped down as Team Europe after the 2014 event, in part citing the lack of a challenge in leading the European team.

Ruijsink replaces Mark Wilson, who helmed the U.S. squad for three years, coming closest to victory in 2015, when the U.S. lost, 11-7.

With Team USA posting just one win in the last 11 Mosconi Cups, Matchroom said it was seeking a game-changer to “revive America’s flagging fortunes,” even if it meant appointing a European coach.

The announcement caught many American players and fans by surprise. Numerous posts on social media decried the decision as “an insult to the Americans,” while others applauded the selection as America’s “best chance” to become competitive again.

“The reason to take on this job is quite obvious,” Ruijsink commented in the Matchroom release. “I am an authentic lover of the game and especially of the Mosconi Cup. In 25 years of coaching, the Mosconi Cup has proven to be by far the most exciting event in the world of pool.

“As a coach in pool, there is no higher goal then working in the ‘home of pool,’ the U.S.A. My entire coaching career has been founded on seeing the American players compete at the World Championships in Bergheim, Germany, in 1990. There I saw Earl, Varner, Davenport, Mizerak, Mataya, Lebron and a young Johnny Archer, and they made me love the game even more.”

Ruijsink is credited with coaching Holland into a pool powerhouse, mentoring stars like Alex Lely, Niels Feijen and Rico Diks in the ’90s and early 2000s. In recent years, he has been coaching in Russia, developing a talented crop of players, including recent World Pool Series champion Ruslan Chinahov.

“I was shocked at first,” said American Justin Bergman, who has played on the last three U.S. squads. “But I don’t think it’s a horrible idea from a player’s view, since he probably has good ideas and he’s a knowledgeable coach. I think we should all support him.”

“I think it’s good, since he was so huge for Europe’s team,” echoed Skyler Woodward, Team USA’s best player over the past two Mosconi Cups.

According to Matchroom, Ruijsink will get to hand pick his five-player team, so long as each player is ranked in the top 10 in Mosconi Cup points in 2017. Additionally, Ruijsink plans to travel to the U.S. several times during the year to meet with and observe potential team members.

Ruijsink’s first decision was selecting Archer as his vice-captian.

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.”

BCA Hall of Fame Banquet Ticket Deadline

Chicago — The ticket deadline for the 2013 Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame Banquet, which will honor women’s champion Jeanette Lee and Matchroom Sport president Barry Hearn, is rapidly approaching! The United States Billiard Media Association, which produces the annual banquet with the BCA, announced that the deadline to purchase tickets is Tuesday, Nov. 26. Tickets WILL NOT be sold at the door.

This year’s Hall of Fame Banquet, staged during the 2013 Mosconi Cup, will be held at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Monday, Dec. 2 at 6:30. Action on the first day of the Mosconi Cup will be completed by 4:00 pm, ensuring that all the players from Team USA and Team Europe will be in attendance as Hearn, creator of the wildly popular USA v Europe team 9-ball tournament, is inducted into pool’s most exclusive club.

The evening will begin with the Bass Pro Shops Cocktail Reception at 6:30 pm. Bass Pro Shops is a major sponsor of Ms. Lee.

Tickets for the 2013 BCA Hall of Fame Banquet are $95 per person, and can be purchased at www.USBMA.com, or by calling 312-341-1110 ext 229.

The 2013 Hall of Fame Banquet is sponsored by: Bass Pro Shops; American Poolplayers Association; Aramith, Billiard Congress of America, Championship, CueSports International; Diamond Billiard Products; Imperial Int’l; PartyPoker.com; Predator Products; Simonis; Tour Edition Cloth; and Tweeten Fibre.

ESPN to Stream Mosconi Cup

Just hours before the 2012 Mosconi Cup kicks off in London, Matchroom Sport announced that ESPN will broadcast all of the action live on its ESPN3 network. Here is the full release from Matchroom Sport:

With the 2012 PartyPoker.com Mosconi Cup set to start at 2 Eastern time on Monday 10th December, pool fans across America will be able to follow all the action live on ESPN 3 as Team USA goes in search of Team Europe’s crown.

Taking place at the legendary York Hall in East London between Monday 10th and Thursday 13th December, this is the 19th annual running of pool’s biggest event as two five man teams from the USA and Europe go at it over four days of sheer adrenalized 9 ball action.

Team USA are aiming to win back the trophy they last won at MGM Grand in 2009. The Europeans retained their trophy in Vegas 12 months ago, defeating USA 11-7 in Vegas.

Captained by CJ Wiley, Team USA members Johnny Archer(Georgia), Shane Van Boening (South Dakota), Dennis Hatch (New York) and Mike Dechaine (Maine) are joined by rookie Brandon Shuff (Virgina) for Mosconi Cup XIX.

ESPN3 is ESPN’s multi-screen sports network, a live destination that delivers thousands of sports events annually and accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app and through ESPN on Xbox LIVE to Gold members. It is currently available to 79 million homes at no additional cost to fans who receive their high-speed Internet connection or video subscription from an affiliated service provider. The network is also available at no cost to approximately 21 million U.S. college students and U.S.-based military personnel via computers connected to on-campus educational networks and on-base military networks.

Team USA Set for Mosconi Cup

Van Boening will be making a sixth consecutive appearance. (Photo by JP Parmentier-Matchroom Sport)

Van Boening will be making a sixth consecutive appearance. (Photo by JP Parmentier-Matchroom Sport)

Here’s the official release from Matchroom Sport announcing the five players who will compete for Team USA and captain CJ Wiley:

Following from his undefeated run through last week’s U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship, Shane Van Boening cemented his place at the head of the American 2012 PartyPoker.com Mosconi Cup rankings to secure his spot on the team as one of the top two automatic spots.

“I’m so happy to be on my sixth appearance as Mosconi USA team member,” Van Boening said. “As I just won the U.S. Open, I know I’m playing well this year and will try my best to help the team take home the title.”

Such was Van Boening’s dominance of the five-event series that he beat the second placed player Mike Dechaine by an incredible 218 points. In his previous five Mosconi Cup appearances, the South Dakota Kid sports a record of 12 wins from 26 matches.

For second placed Dechaine it will be a return to the team following on from his debut in Las Vegas last year and he will be relishing the chance to show what he can do in front of a partisan, sold-out crowd at the York Hall, London, from December 10-13.

“I am very excited to compete in my second consecutive Mosconi Cup, especially with this one being in London,” Dechaine said. “With the crowds being heavily in Europe’s favor, this is without a doubt the team I’d want going against it.”

The first of the remaining three wildcard picks is Virginia’s Brandon Shuff, who caps off a fine season to make his Mosconi Cup debut at the age of 29.

“When I was growing up, it was an American pool player’s dream to play on the Mosconi Cup,” he said. “This is definitely a blessing and hard work is paying off and I’m excited for this accomplishment and I’ll be training hard to help our team bring that Cup back where it belongs.”

Back for his third Mosconi Cup is Dennis Hatch. An MVP in his 2009 debut when his gung-ho team spirit helped propel the team to victory, Hatch will be hoping for a successful return to the York Hall where he made his last Mosconi Cup appearance in 2010.

“It’s always an honor and privilege to represent the US,” he said. “I am so fired up and hungry that the only thing I plan on tasting while in Europe is victory, because I believe this is one of the best teams yet.”

The final spot in the team is filled by Georgia’s Johnny Archer who will be making a record-breaking 16th consecutive Mosconi Cup appearance. With a winning percentage of 53, the Scorpion made his debut at the event in 1996 and has been an ever-present since.

“It is an honor to represent the USA team for my 16th straight year,” he said. “And I will do whatever it takes to help the boys take that cup from York Hall and bring it back to America where it belongs.”

Mosconi Cup: Wiley to Lead U.S.

Wiley will lead an underdog Team USA into hostile territory.

Wiley will lead an underdog Team USA into hostile territory.

Matchroom Sport distributed this press release on Sunday, Oct. 14:

FOLLOWING A 16-year absence from the event, winning 1996 Mosconi Cup player/captain CJ Wiley returns to London this December as skipper of the American team at PartyPoker.com Mosconi Cup. The 47-year-old Wiley from Texas was in charge of the side in London in 1996 and had the honor of potting the winning 9 ball in a 15-13 victory.

After a highly decorated spell at the top, including winning the ESPN World Championship, Wiley wound down his career in the 2000s, choosing to focus on a successful business career. He’s now back — and will be facing one of the toughest challenges of his career as he attempts to rally his side and turn their recent Mosconi Cup fortunes around.

“It’s an honor to be chosen to represent the USA team as captain in 2012,” said Wiley.

“I have been honored with the Player of the Year award and won major championships; however, being chosen to represent my country and its best players in the Mosconi Cup is something I value as an even greater personal accomplishment,” he said. “I know that the European team has dominated us over the past 6 years and I know it’s going to be especially challenging to go into York Hall in front of a highly enthusiastic home crowd and win the Mosconi Cup.

“This year however, is going to be different. The USA team will be young, ambitious and hungry for this victory. I, as captain, will make sure they are all on top of their games both mentally and physically. This is more than just a pocket billiards match; this is for patriotic pride. This is for the right to say we are the champions and take the Mosconi Cup back to America, where it belongs.”

Matchroom Sport selects Manila to host 2006 World Pool Championship

After the last two years in Chinese-Taipei and Kaohsiung, Matchroom Sport has decided to push the envelope and stage the prestigious World Pool Championships in Manila this year, marking the first time that the annual event will be held in the Philippines.

Matchroom Sport, headed by its chairman, British millionaire Barry Hearn, and Media Director Luke Riches will join ESPN Star Sports executives in Manila next week to finalize deals of what is reportedly a done deal.

While hosting the World Pool Championships is a costly endeavor, the positive media opportunity is expected to be more than worthwhile, especially since pool-crazy Filipinos would love to see 1999 champion Efren “Bata” Reyes, 2004 winner Alex “The Lion” Pagulayan, 2002 runner-up Francisco “Django” Bustamante and promising stars such as “Marvelous” Marlon Manalo match their skills against the finest players from Chinese-Taipei, the U.S. and Europe, along with emerging talents from Japan and South Korea.

Viva Sports/Manila Standard Today was informed that the top prize will be the biggest in the history of the World Pool Championships, running into six figures.

No venue has been selected as of yet, but candidates include the Philippine International Convention Center, the World Trade Center and billionaire Henry Sy’s Mall of Asia.

IPT Announces Long-awaited Tour Dates

The International Pool Tour has released its 2006 calendar of events, some of which conflict with the game’s most established tournaments, including the U.S. Open, the World Pool Championship and the Mosconi Cup.

The IPT announced that its first event — the North American Open 8-Ball Championship — will be held July 22-30 at the Venetian in Las Vegas. The IPT World Open 8-Ball Championship is slated for Sept. 2-10 at the Reno Hilton, in Reno, Nev., the same dates as the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship in Chesapeake, Va. The IPT Players 8-Ball Championship is slated for Oct. 29-Nov. 4 in the United Kingdom, dates already earmarked for the WPA World 8-Ball Championship in the United Arab Emirates. The final day of the IPT’s UK event also overlaps the opening day of Matchroom Sports’ World Pool Championship in Asia. The IPT Masters 8-Ball Championship will be staged Nov. 26-Dec. 3 at the Hyatt Hotel in Rosemont, Ill. The year-ending IPT 2006 King of the Hill 8-Ball Championship (and the concurrently run 2007 Tour Card Qualification Tournament) is scheduled for Dec. 12-17 at the Wynn Las Vegas, which conflicts with Matchroom’s Mosconi Cup.

“We really did try to work around other promoters’ dates,” said Deno Andrews, tour director for the IPT. “But all of the UPA, WPBA, WPA and Matchroom events, as well as the U.S. Open, took up a lot of weeks. We knew there would be a few problems.”