"40 feet of flat, nasty, unforgiving oil." That quote comes from ESPN color commentator Randy Pederson during yesterday's telecast. I've never heard this oil pattern summed up better.
A typical house pattern contains a lot more oil in the middle than on the outside. This allows bowlers to get better traction on the outside of the lanes and get the ball to the pocket more often. Most oil patterns share the trait of more oil on the inside than the outside.
On the U.S. Open pattern, the first 40 feet of lane are coated equally on each board, gutter to gutter, with oil. This is not an easy pattern to dominate and is typically one of the lowest-scoring patterns available on the PBA Tour.
We could see the impact of the oil yesterday. Sometimes, a ball would get lost going too far outside and never recover. As someone who bowls in a sport league with this pattern, it's hard for me to watch. I see the ball going out there and know how it feels when it doesn't recover. But I suppose it does make me feel better to see the best in the world also struggle.
Except for Bill O'Neill, that is. Yes, he missed the pocket a couple times, but for the most part, he dominated and his victory was never in question.
O'Neill first had to face Tommy Jones, who didn't seem to be struggling at all with the oil in his opening victory over Jason Couch (to read about how Couch got in, have a gander at Steve's Bowling Blog for a great post on the importance of every pin).
However, when the oil started to move, Jones seemed to get lost, and O'Neill got by him with relative ease.
In the final, O'Neill again dominated, this time against reigning champion Mike Scroggins. While Scroggins struggled to hit the pocket, O'Neill struggled to miss the pocket.
O'Neill told pba.com, "I found a little hold area and that's all I needed. It was just a matter of bearing down and making good shots."
Sounds simple enough, but I can attest it isn't. I've said this before, but if you get a chance to bowl in a sport league, or even just bowl a game on one of these PBA patterns, you should do it. It will teach you a bit about how good these professionals really are and give you a glimpse into how much more impressive O'Neill's championship 267 on the U.S. Open pattern is than a typical house-league 267.
Congratulations to Bill O'Neill, who appeared to be bowling without even considering the possibility of not winning. And he did.
Photo courtesy of PBA LLC