2018 PBA Tournament of Champions Recap

Joe Compton, Writer

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Matt O’Grady of Rahway, New Jersey won his first PBA tour title on Sunday with a victory at the first major of the season, the 2018 Tournament of Champions, hosted at historic AMF Riviera Lanes in Fairlawn, Ohio. O’Grady was one of three players on Sunday’s show seeking their first title, along with BJ Moore and Andrew Anderson. All three qualified for the event through the Pre Tournament Qualifier (PTQ) as they have won a PBA Regional title, but have yet to win on the National Tour.

Tournament leader Jesper Svensson took the lead during the second round of match play and never gave it back, eventually leading by 147 pins after the 42 games with an average of 229.74, and finished match play with a record of 16-6-2. Second place qualifier Andrew Anderson ended with an average of 227.67 and a match play record of 15-9-0. Jason Belmonte snuck into match play, just above the cut in 24th place. From there he clawed up to third, posting a record of 14-10-0 and an average of 226.38. BJ Moore was 26 pins from the cut before the position round, but shot a 230 to move up to fourth. His record was 15-9-0 and an average of 224.36. Matt O’Grady almost dropped below the cut from third place, shooting a 154 in the position round. Fortunately for him, Matt Sanders left a 4-6-7-10 in the tenth frame, leaving him 10 pins from the cut. Other outside finishers include Ronnie Russell, who led the tournament for a little bit, ending 44 pins back, and Anthony Simonsen, 60 pins from the cut.


OIL PATTERN: Don Johnson 40



Good friends and doubles partners BJ Moore and Matt O’Grady met up for the first match of the day. Both were looking for their first PBA Tour title. BJ Moore elected to have Matt O’Grady to start the match. O’Grady hit a touch high and left a four pin on his first shot, which he converted. Moore came up light in his first two frames to start, and left the two pin on both, and had no problem cleaning them up. O’Grady struck on the right lane, which was the story for most of the match. The left lane however, not so much. In the third frame he went through the face and left a 3-6-7-10, with the four pin dropping out late. He superbly converted it to keep count. BJ Moore’s woes continued with another light hit, another two pin left. It became worse in the fourth frame when he left a 7-10 off of a really good looking shot in the half pocket. O’Grady struck on the right lane once again, this time slapping out the ten pin. The next shot on the left lane hit light leaving a 2-8, and he was possibly compensating for hitting high the two shots before on that lane. Moore would start to find something with a quick wall shot for a strike, but that didn’t last long, leaving a ringing ten pin the next frame. Matt O’Grady came out of the TV break with another strike on the right lane, but the next shot was left all the way, leaving a 3-6. BJ Moore went high in the seventh frame, leaving a 3-6-10, which he picked up the hard way. He packed a strike high flush the next shot to stay in it, but by slim margins. O’Grady doubled up in the eighth, and then finally figured out the left lane problem to make it three in a row for him. He couldn’t be shut out to end. BJ Moore struck in the ninth, and needed all three strikes in the tenth to have a chance, but that wouldn’t happen. He pulled the first shot left to leave a 3-4-6-7, and could only get the 3-6 out of it. O’Grady just needed to keep the ball on the lane and stay behind the foul line to advance, which he did, going strike, nine, spare, to win 219-174.



BJ Moore- Roto Grip Hustle HYB, (strike shots) Storm Pitch Black (spare shots)

Matt O’Grady- Roto Grip Hustle INK (all shots)


BJ Moore- Hitting light was evidently BJ’s biggest problem this match. He hit light four of ten shots, three of which resulted in two pins, and then the 7-10, which was an unfortunate break. He was never really able to string them together, having only one double, and that was late in the game. The errant shot in the last frame cost him a lot, given that he had the opportunity to put pressure on O’Grady with three strikes in the tenth.


Matt O’Grady- Matt looked very comfortable on the right lane for the entirety of the match, ending with five out of six strikes on that lane. It was night and day compared to the left lane, which he had one of five strikes on, and that strike came in the last shot on the lane. He did a variety of things on that lane, and never seemed to leave the same thing. It could affect him later down the line.



Reigning Player of the Year Jason Belmonte came into this match seeking a tenth major title, which would tie him at the most all time with Peter Weber and Earl Anthony. Belmonte elected to start the match, possibly to make Matt O’Grady finish on the left lane. Belmonte played deep, feeding the ball right with a big break left into the pocket for a strike to open up. O’Grady responded with two strikes of his own, and looked to have maybe figured out his left lane problem. Belmonte struck twice again to go out to three in a row, and a good foundation to start the game. O’Grady left a stone nine off a beautiful shot, but seemed unfazed, following the spare up with a flush strike. Jason Belmonte hit light the first ball, but his high rev rate and ball speed gave him a wider pocket. He left a ten pin the next shot, with the messenger missing the ten pin, instead going in front. This meant that the match was basically back to even. O’Grady struck twice more to lead into the TV break. Belmonte got back to business with another double, but had a disgusted look on the second strike, turning away as the ball was about 40 feet down the lane. Things got interesting when Matt O’Grady hit light on the right lane and left a 2-10. He tried to convert by cutting the two pin into the ten, but he missed the two pin, therefore missing both. He then followed that up with a strike. Belmonte left the first ball left leaving a 6-10. Usually a no problem spare for him, he chopped the six off the ten for an open frame. He left another ten pin in the ninth frame, which was no problem on the conversion. O’Grady struck in the ninth, meaning he only needed another two strikes and three pins to shut out Jason Belmonte. He got the first one done no problem, high flush, ten in the pit. The next shot, however, was left all the way, and O’Grady paid the price for it, leaving a 4-9 split. He once again missed both pins trying to convert. Belmonte then got a chance to win the match, needing a double and five pins to win. Like O’Grady, the first shot was high flush. The next shot was a ten pin, with another failed messenger. O’Grady won this one 229-225.



Jason Belmonte- Storm Drive, (Strike Shots) Team Storm-Black Belmo (spare shots)

Matt O’Grady- Roto Grip Hustle INK (all shots)


Jason Belmonte- Only two things stand out to me, but they were both pretty big ones. The first one is the chopped 6-10. That had a huge weight on the match. The other one is pin carry. One of Belmo’s main characteristics of his game, like most two-handed bowlers, is carry. Two messengers went in front of the ten pin, which is unusual for him. It’s not something he could’ve necessarily controlled, but it played another big part in the outcome of this match.


Matt O’Grady- Nothing really caught my attention except for the two open frames. Most every shot looked perfect to me and to my memory. Like I said before, the big slip up was the two splits, which he failed in converting. The 2-10 was just a light hit, maybe a little left of target. The 4-9 however, as stated above, was left all the way.



22 year old Andrew anderson was making his first TV appearance, and was also looking for his first PBA Tour title. He elected for Matt O’Grady to start the match, probably so he could finish first. O’Grady went high the first shot of the first frame leaving a 3-6-10, but converted it with no issues. Andrew Anderson opted to throw a ball with a urethane coverstock which would prove interesting to how the lanes played out. He struck the first frame, and left a ten pin in the second, which was converted. O’Grady returned to form in the second frame with a high flush strike, but it was short lived. He crossed over on the left lane leaving a 6-10, possibly spelling trouble for the left lane once again. Anderson crossed over for a 6-10 as well, easily converted for a spare. Andrew flirted with the gutter a little bit the next shot, leaving a light shaker eight pin, which was once again converted with no problem. Matt O’Grady got a really fortunate break in the fourth, going through the nose, and then broke up about four splits on the way to a strike. He added to that with another high flush strike shot. Anderson left the ball wide in the fifth, leaving the two pin on a light hit. He got a great break, with a messenger breaking up the 7-10, and knocking both down. O’Grady came out of the break with a light hit resulting in another two pin. He had a close call with another 7-10 standing at first, but another pin broke it up by knocking out the ten. Andrew Anderson fought back by doubling up,  but fell behind with a shot through the face resulting in a 3-4-6-7-10, and he was only able to pick up the 6-7-10 portion. O’Grady got a half pocket shaker to go in the eighth, but then got another shot left, leaving another 4-9. He once again tried to go for it, and once again missed everything. The open frame entertained the possibility that Anderson could flip this game around by striking in the ninth, two more in the tenth, and then eight pins. This would not happen though, as he went high and left the 3-6-10, destroying any possibility of shutting O’Grady out. Anderson left a seven pin off of a light hit to add insult to injury, and left a ten pin on the fill shot. Matt O’Grady just needed a mark and two pins, but that’s not always a gimme shot. He left a seven pin, converted, and then struck to advance with a 194-185 scoreline.


Andrew Anderson- Hammer Purple Hammer, (Strike Shots) Hammer Black Hammer (spare shots)

Matt O’Grady- Roto Grip Hustle INK (all shots)


Andrew Anderson- The only thing I really saw was some inconsistency with shots. Every non strike was a different leave, based off of different shots. The use of urethane could’ve played into this as well, as well as nerves based off of the first time on TV. The 3-4-6-7-10 also took a lot of count away which proved costly in the end.


Matt O’Grady- There’s not a lot to say from last match to this one. The big thing was leaving a shot left and leaving that 4-9, and then trying to go for it instead of possibly taking count.



The Swedish two-handed lefty Jesper Svensson came into this match looking for his second major victory and his eighth overall title. He elected to let Matt O’Grady start the match, as he would finish first. O’Grady started off with a shot a tiny bit left of target and left a four pin, which he converted. Jesper Svensson’s first shot hooked more off of the breakpoint than expected, leaving a 4-6 split. He would take the six pin. His next shot hit light but still carried. O’Grady hit high flush in the second frame, and then hit high again on the left lane for another four pin, possibly spelling more trouble with that left lane. Svensson slapped out the seven for a strike in the third, but wasn’t as fortunate the next frame, leaving the seven. He picked up the seven, but seemed to have an issue with his footing. Matt O’Grady slapped out a pin of his own, on the opposite side. He hit light the first shot in the fifth, with a 2-10 standing. The ten pin fell down late to leave him with a two pin. Svensson’s next shot broke hard again, going through the face leaving the 4-7. He once again converted, but once again had footing issues. Svensson came back with another superb strike. O’Grady responded with a strike of his own, but them once again hit high on the left lane, leaving another four pin. Jesper Svensson left another seven pin off of a good looking shot, and had no issues picking it up. He then threw a shot which left him turning away, but it had struck. Matt O’Grady hit light in the eighth frame, leaving another two pin, and another conversion. He carried a light shaker in in the ninth to set up his tenth frame. Jesper Svensson could’ve shut O’Grady out with three strikes and four pins, but left a four pin in the ninth, eliminating this possibility. To make matters worse, he hit high in the tenth and left a six pin. He picked that up and filled the frame with eight more, hitting high once more. The stage was set for Matt O’Grady. He needed a mark and five pins to win, and he did that no problem with a strike with the first shot, and a 6-10 in the second, which was converted. Matt O’Grady finished running the ladder with a 207-193 finish.


Jesper Svensson- Storm Pitch Black, (strike shots) Storm Ice Storm (left side spares)

Matt O’Grady- Roto Grip Hustle INK (all shots)


Jesper Svensson- Like the first two left side spares, it looked like Jesper never got his feet under him. He struggled with the ball breaking high on the three shots on the right lane. He also didn’t seem to carry anything very well, and he, like Belmonte, have pin carry as a big aspect on their game. He also seemed to be more frustrated than usual, but that may be because he wins a good amount of his TV matches.


Matt O’Grady- There isn’t a lot to say about this last game. He knew his job and he got it done. He once again had issues on the left lane, but that was about it. He also got a few big breaks, a good indicator that it was his day. He fought hard the entire day and will go to bed a champion, that’s something to be proud of.


The next PBA event is the Go Bowling! PBA 60th Anniversary Classic at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis from February 13th to the 18th, with the TV finals to be broadcast on ESPN on Sunday the 18th at 12 PM Central Time. The oil pattern used will be the Dick Weber 45 Pattern.