WPC Round of 64
by Mason King Jul 7, 2005, 2:07 AM EST

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan, July 7 - After placing an impressive nine players in the final round of 64 at the World Pool Championship, the U.S. contingent suffered heavy casualties in the first day of knock-out play, losing former world champions Johnny Archer and Earl Strickland, among other hopefuls.

Those weren't the only surprising absences after the field was whittled to 32 players in the early morning hours of July 7 in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. (FYI: Taiwan is 12 hours ahead of the U.S., EST) Fan favorite and obvious contender Efren Reyes failed to even make the cut for the field of 64, and legitimate threat Ralf Souquet also ran out of gas in the round-robin stages.

Players and bookmakers alike were left scratching their heads as a cadre of talented unknowns took over the brackets. The odds-on favorite remains 2004 winner Alex Pagulayan, who beat Korea's Shin-Young Park, 10-5, in the first round of the knock-out stage, but now his biggest challengers include such lesser-known quantities as Germany's imposing Andreas Roschkowski, Taiwan's baby-faced Po-Cheng Kuo, and rising Philippine star Marlon Manalo.

After play halted in the steamy Kaohsiung Business Exhibition Center on July 7, only four Americans were left in the field of 32: Rodney Morris, who beat Canada's speedy shotmaker Luc Salvas, 10-2; Gabe Owen, who defeated German Oliver Ortmann, 10-6; Cory Deuel, who trounced Taipei's Chia-Hsiung Lai, 10-2; and Jeremy Jones, who outlasted Santoshi Kawabata of Japan, 10-8.

Five of America's remaining nine suffered early exits. Archer lost to Sweden's Marcus Chamat, 10-5; Strickland failed against Alain Martel of Canada, 10-7; Mike Davis faltered against Taiwan's Hui-Kai Hsia, 10-3; Charles Bryant lost a close one against Manalo, 10-9; and Danny 'Kid Delicious' Basavich stalled against Kunihiko Takahashi of Japan, 10-2.

Three of America's 12-man platoon didn't make it past the round-robin stage: Shawn Putnam, who notched a 3-4 record; John Schmidt, 3-4; and Charlie Williams, who ended with an uncharacteristically dismal 1-6 tally.

Unfortunately for the Americans, they are guaranteed to have one less player in the brackets after play resumes tonight in Kaohsiung: Owen is set to face off against his good friend, former road partner and mentor, Jones. Morris likely will have his hands full with England's Raj Hundal, who has forged a reputation as a giant-killer after dominating Taiwan's favorite son, Ching-ShunYang, 10-4, in the first round of the knock-out stage. Deuel seems to have the easiest road to the sweet 16, matched against unproven Harry Stolka of Germany, who slipped out of the round-robin stage with a 3-4 record.

Many here believe that, with so many favorites out of the field, it's Manalo's tournament to lose. The bashful Manalo had been tuning up for the event in America, and won the Sands Regency Reno Open in June against one of the biggest tournament fields of the year. He then finished a strong 5-2 in the round-robin stages here in Kaohsiung. He's come a long way since last year's WPC, held in Taipei, Taiwan, when the then-unknown Filipino shocked the field by beating his hero, Reyes, and ended up finishing tied for eighth.

Thorsten Hohmann, the stolid 2003 WPC champ, also looks good. He won the BCA Open 9-Ball Championship in May, and finished the round-robin stage here at 5-2. He defeated the Philippines' Ronato Alcano, 10-7, in the first round of knock-out play, and is expected to match up well against England's Kevin Uzzell tonight.

But don't count out 29-year-old Chamat, who always brings his A-game to the WPC. He finished third in 2005, and looks dangerous this year after his 10-5 pasting of Archer. At one point he held a 9-1 advantage over his foe.

"I was more shocked at the result because I was playing so bad earlier the week," said Chamat, who squeaked through the round-robin stage with a 3-4 record. "I didn't feel so comfortable, but today everything was going my way, and that's just the way it goes sometimes.

"Archer missed an easy 8 ball early; maybe he was distracted by someone in the crowd, and then I hit 7 - 1 before he had another visit to the table.

"I nearly didn't get into the knock-out stages and he won all his matches so I felt like a big, big underdog out there.

"I don't really care who I meet in tomorrow as I have the toughest draw in this round," he said. He, in fact, is set to meet Canadian Martel tonight.

For up-to-the-minute scoring at the WPC, go to www.worldpoolchampionship.com.

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