See Takes U.S. Open 10-Ball GoldMurphy awarded Qlympics bronze; straight pool closes U.S. Open play tomorrow
by Paul Berg, InsidePOOL Magazine Staff
Holland import Huidji See claimed top honors in the U.S. Open 10-Ball Championship tonight with an 11-9 victory over Shannon Murphy in the winners’-bracket final and a comeback win over Louis Ulrich. That 11-9 result in the third of four U.S. Open finals at the Qlympics in Louisville was a second win for the occasional Floridian over Atlanta’s Ulrich, and capped an undefeated run through a small field filled with potentially dominant players.
The two U.S. Open 9-Ball champions in the field were unable to reach the final day, ’06 winner Schmidt rousted by See 11-9 and ’04 titlist Gabe Owen bumped early by all-around monster Jason Miller and taken down in a tie for fifth place by Rafael Martinez-Chavez. Another threat at all games, 22- year-old Shannon Murphy from Cincinnati was undefeated at the start of the evening, having come back for double-hill wins in dramatic fashion against Chris Bartram and Martinez. Facing See, Murphy played the familiar role of trailing, but this time his opposition pulled away. While he has had moderate success in Kentucky, tying for 27th place in this year’s Derby City Classic 9-Ball event and making top quarter of the other sprawling events as well, See has no finishes to herald this strong a 10-ball showing to match his runner-up at the World Straight Pool Championship supporting his remaining contention in the other event he entered here.
Ulrich has recent history to support his strong play here, and while his initial 11-10 loss to See sent him to the one-loss ranks, Ulrich came through the semifinals with Martinez 11-7, holding off a mid-match rally from the fourth-place finisher in both events today. Martinez also joined Owen as the only players to make the cash in three of four divisions.
Murphy played an unfamiliar frontrunner’s role in the semifinals against Ulrich, taking the first five games in the alternate-break format by capitalizing on early misses. While strong all-around DCC9 finisher Murphy maintained that lead 7-2, his break went dry for the remainder of the set, leaving a combination and a run-out for Ulrich around a scratch on the 4 ball that cost him three games. With another clearance from an empty Murphy break and one from his own fruitful smash, Ulrich drew to within 8-7 and three-fouled Murphy in the next with imprisoning defense to draw level. Ulrich took his first lead, clearing from a successful 2 ball safety, and Murphy took the next. Jumping to skim the 1 ball and caroming the 10 ball straight in the side to take the hill, Ulrich closed the match 11-9 after out-moving Murphy for the 5 ball and running out.
It would take two race-to-11 wins for Ulrich to unseat See, and with leads of 3-0 and 8-5 Ulrich seemed on pace to force a second set, running out immaculately with most of his opportunities. See roared back, capitalizing on few good breaks and taking a 9-8 lead on a run-out from a missed 2 ball slice by Ulrich that rolled along the rail to rattle and hang in the pocket. Another miss on the 5 ball in the next rack put See a game away from the tournament, and while Ulrich rallied to take one more from a foul kicking at the 8 ball by See, it would be his last. With a 10-8 lead, See broke and made the 1ball, then elected to swing at a 2-10 bank combination. It missed narrowly, and the two lined up for a combination on the eight for Ulrich. The Southern California native drilled it but scratched one rail in the side pocket, and See suddenly stared at a road map that he ran out with aplomb for the 11-9 win and the gold version of the three medals awarded to top finishers in these events.
See will receive at least a bronze tomorrow when he tackles Martinez in the U.S. Open 14.1 Straight Pool Championship semifinals, the penultimate step in the last pro event of the Qlympics. Owen has been practicing straight pool all night with Schmidt and tournament director Ken Shuman and awaits in the one race-to-200 point final.
Two consummate pros have begun a historic race to 100 in 10-ball in TheActionReport’s Action Challenge 2, available for pay-per-view on their site. Earl Strickland was slow out of the gate against The First Action Challenge winner and recent U.S. Open 9-Ball champion Shane Van Boening and fell behind 9-1. Strickland later seemed to gain some of the stroke that propelled him to five Open championships over three decades, rallying to a 28-17 deficit before Van Boening ran out from a Stickland miss banking the 1 ball and broke the 10 in the side pocket to close the first of three days of play 30-17. The 10 ball does not count as a win on the break in this $10,000-a-man, winner-takes-all tilt unless it goes in the sides or the corner pockets farther away from the rack, but Van Boening managed to pot it a handful of times for wins with his powerful smash. Stay tuned to InsidePOOLmag.com as “The Pearl” attempts to rally against “The South Dakota Kid” and the last of the U.S. Open events at the Qlympics are settled tomorrow in Louisville.