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U.S. Open: Putnam-Appleton for the Title
Oct 22, 2011, 3:29 PM

CHESAPEAKE, Va. -- One set from the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship, Shawn Putnam doesn't sound like someone lost in the moment. The 40-year-old American is on the verge of what will be the biggest title of his career by far. But he doesn't have time to think.

"Right now, it's just about staying focused," he said, moments after outlasting a hard-charging Alex Pagulayan in the left-side final. "I can't get distracted."

Putnam, long among America's best, has notched his share of titles across the country. His biggest, the 2005 UPA Pro Players Championship, solidified his spot on that year's Mosconi Cup team. But he's in uncharted territory now, just 13 racks from one of the most prestigious titles in the game.

In that match with Pagulayan, Putnam pulled ahead in a somewhat sloppy start to the race to 11. With an 8-4 lead, though, he watched as Pagulayan collected the next four to tie it up. Putnam quickly responded to get on the hill by drilling a 4-9 combo and then jumping in the 1, while going two rails for position on the 2.

Pagulayan made a last ditch effort in the 19th rack, but an errant 8-9 combo allowed Putnam to close out the set.

Appleton, meanwhile, is back in the hot-seat, just where he was a year ago. The reigning champion has sights set on becoming the third back-to-back U.S. Open winner, joining Mika Immonen and Nick Varner.

"I'm totally comfortable here," he said after trouncing Pagulayan, 11-6, in the hot-seat match. "I'm in love in the U.S. Open."

The final, set for a 7:30 p.m. (EST) start, will be a race to 13, win-by-two, with a cap at 15 (so if it's tied at 14-14, the next game will decide the title).