Hohmann Gets Off To Good Start In Manila

Thorsten Hohmann

World Pool Champion Thorsten Hohmann got off a plane, grabbed a sandwich and with hardly any time to warm up thrilled Filipino pool fans on the opening day of the LG Collins “On Cue 2” tournament at Robinson's Galeria in Manila with some flashes of brilliance despite the jet lag.

The runner-up to Rodney “The Rocket” Morris in the World Pool League in Warsaw, Poland over the weekend, led the combined Europe-US squad with a 2-1 record against a Philippine team made up of Efren “Bata” Reyes, Francisco “Django” Bustamante, Canada-based Alex Pagulayan and comparative unknown Venancio Tanio who made the Philippine team after winning a qualifying tournament last week.

Under the format, each of the four Filipinos will play the visitors once with the top two in each bracket advancing to the crossover semi finals. The Europe-US bracket is made up of Hohmann, 2001 World Pool Champion Mika Immonen who has made Manila his second home, six-time world champion Earl “The Pearl” Strickland and Johnny Archer who recently won two major tournaments back-to-back.

Immonen who arrived a couple of days earlier and enjoyed the sun and the sand at the fabulous Boracay Beach Resort and Hohmann were forced to play three matches each since the raging fires in California had forced Strickland and Archer to miss their original flights. Reyes who finished third in the World Pool League after losing to Hohmann in the semi final was also scheduled to arrive late Tuesday Manila Time from Warsaw while the two American aces were due to arrive on Wednesday morning.

In the race-to-seven, alternate break format of the elimination round of the $40,000 tournament in pool crazy Philippines, Immonen spoiled Pagulayan's debut before Filipino fans with a rousing 7-5 victory. Immonen jumped to a 2-0 lead after Pagulayan scratched playing a difficult shot on the 1-ball. Immonen scratched in the very next rack and Pagulayan, with ball in hand, quickly ran out and followed this up with another impressive run to even the count at 2-2.

Immonen, breaking solidly and pocketing with precision edged in front 3-2 before Pagulayan played a neat safety that ended in an Immonen foul and a run-out by “The Lion” to once again tie the count at 3-3. A break and run out by Immonen and another foul by the Finnish star after a nifty safety by Pagulayan made it 4-4. An error by Pagulayan and a fantastic 1-9 combination put Immonen on the hill but a mistake on the 1-ball by Immonen enabled Pagulayan to get back into the match with an excellent 7-9 combo to come to within one at 6-5.

However, Pagulayan failed to capitalize on his break despite pocketing two balls and Immonen ran out winner 7-5.

Hohmann started off in style, winning the lag and breaking and running out in a hurry to take a 1-0 lead but Bustamante evened the score with a simple 3-9 combo before playing a sensational shot on the 2-ball and then a long shot on the three to move in front 2-1. His confidence riding high Bustamante soon raced to a 3-1 lead before he scratched in the very next rack enabling Hohmann to pull one back 3-2.

Bustamante's awesome break gave him a wide open table for a run-out at 4-2 before his troubles began. After Hohmann ran-out on his break 4-3, Bustamante buried three balls on the break but the 7 and 6 collided blocking a shot on the 2-ball. Bustamante resorted to a “push” and Hohmann, knowing he was in trouble gave it right back to the Filipino who gave the German ace a small opening and he immediately pounced on it to make it 4-4.

A classic 6-9 combo saw Hohmann grab the lead for the first time in the match and when Bustamante scratched on the break, Hohmann was on the hill 6-4. Bustamante uncharacteristically fouled once again and the young German star put him away 7-4.

Tanio, hardly showing any jitters playing a big-name star like Immonen under the glare of TV lights raced to a 2-0 lead but a sorry miss when he tried a safety on the 2-ball gave Immonen an opening and it was soon tied at 4-4. Immonen fouled and Tanio capitalized on it with a terrific 1-9 combo before he in turn fouled allowing Immonen to make it 5-5. Immonen broke and ran out to move in front for the first time 6-5 but failed to capitalize when Tanio came up dry on the break. Three fantastic safeties by Tanio in succession forced Immonen to foul three times in a row to sacrifice the rack and allow the newcomer to set up a nerve-wracking final rack at 6-6.

Immonen missed a cut on the 2-ball and with the fans cheering him on Tanio made sure his debut in big-time pool was a winning one, 7-6.

In the best match of the day, Pagulayan came back from his opening loss to Immonen to beat Hohmann in a 7-6 thriller which was marked by big breaks including a crucial “golden break” by Pagulayan to tie the score at 6-6 in a match where fortunes swung first one way, then the other. It became evident that Pagulayan had gotten a feel of the table and the generous pockets and thrived on the fan support especially after Hohmann who was breaking for the match came up dry.

A tired Immonen succumbed to Bustamante in the penultimate match of the evening 7-5 while Hohmann, dug deep into his reserves of energy and his consummate skill to end the hopes of giant-killer Tanio with a rousing 7-4 triumph to lead the Europe-US squad in the race for a semi final slot with a 2-1 slate while Immonen was at 1-2. All three Filipinos, Bustamante, Tanio and Pagulayan finished the day with identical 1-1 cards.

Photo courtesy of Mark Whiteside