Masters 10-Ball Final Four

Mike Davis

Round one of day four at the Masters Championship was another great one. Alex Pagulayan trailed Shawn Putnam 4-1 and came back to tie it at 4 apiece before Putnam regained control and won the match 8-6. Rodney Morris eclipsed Warren Kiamco 8-4 to progress to play the winner between Earl Strickland and Dennis Hatch. This one was close, with the players tied at 6 all before Strickland grabbed the last two racks to win 8-6. Johnny Archer played very well to end the tournament for Shane WInters 8-4.

The second round was "do or die" for four great players. Earl Strickland faced Rodney Morris while Johnny Archer took on Shawn Putnam. Strickland took an early 4-2 lead over Morris while Putnam and Archer slowly traded racks at 1-1. Morris pulled back until their match was tied at 5 and at this point Archer led Putnam 3-2.

The Morris-Strickland match stayed close. At 7-5 in favor of Strickland, Earl was running out for the win when he scratched and allowed Morris to take the game to pull up to 7-6. In the next rack Morris missed a 5-10 combination to tie it up and Earl finished the rack to stay alive 8-6. Morris settled for 7-8th in the tournament.  

At that time, the Archer-Putnam score stood at 5-4 for Putnam. 90 minutes into the match the two cueists found themselves tied at 6 games and in a race to two for their survival. Putnam got to the hill first at 7-6. The alternating break format gave Archer the next break. He made a ball but fell tough on the one ball. Archer tried a long cut into the corner but the ball went wide and brought Putnam to the table. Putnam made the one and the two but his shape on the 3 was anything but admirable. He was on the 50-yard line and was so close to the three as to make aiming difficult. He made the difficult shot on the three and ran to the eight ball that he missed in the corner and scratched on as well to give Archer ball in hand with only three balls left on the table. Archer ran them with ease to take us to double-hill and a single-rack decider for the match.  

Putnam broke dry but left Archer no clear shot on the one so Archer pushed out. Putnam played safe and left a hit on the one but no shot but a return safe that Archer executed well. Putnam called the ten ball on a shot that required him to kick into the one and them carom the ten. That shot failed and Archer had a bank on the one ball into the side. He made that but still faced a tough table layout. Archer played safe on the four ball. Putnam called a jump-bank on the four and made it for one of the best shots of the week, especially under the pressure he faced. But there is little justice in Ten Ball. He had no shot on the five, only a hit. He played safe, snookering Archer behind the nine ball. Archer made the hit on the five but scratched on the shot. Putnam had ball in hand with only six balls to clear to win the match. He got through the rack to take the match and progress to the next round.

The third round saw the remaining four undefeated players facing off as Ralf Souquet played Mika Immonen and Mike Dechaine took on Mike Davis. The matches would be complete contrasts as Dechaine and Davis kept it close, but Immonen took control early and rolled to a win. Neither Immonen or Souquet brought their absolute top games with them to the TV arena, but Immonen took an early 2-0 lead, fought off a Souquet comeback bid at 3-2 and then cruised to an 8-3 win. Both players made uncharacteristic errors in the match, but it was Immonen who took advantage of the Souquet errors to dominate the match.

The battle of the Mike's saw the players tied at 1-1, 2-2 and 3-3 before Dechaine finally took a two rack lead at 5-3. That lead was shortlived as Davis clawed back to tie the score at 5-5 and again at 6-6. Up to this point in the match, it had been back and forth, but Davis had never held the lead. He changed that in rack thirteen as he got to the hill at 7-6 with him breaking the next rack. That advantage proved to be short lived as Davis came up dry on the break. Dechaine would only manage one ball as his safety attempt on the two ball left the cue ball in the side pocket. Davis had the 2-ball near the 10-ball, but he refused to get greedy and calmly ran the table for the 8-6 win.

The final round of play saw two matches on the one loss side as players battled to try to earn their place in the final four on Saturday. If the last round was a round of contrasting matches, this round of play saw two very similar matches as Mike Dechaine ran over Earl Strickland and Ralf Souquet was just as rude to Shawn Putnam. The Dechaine/Strickland match saw Dechaine stumble a couple times early, but Earl was unable to capitalize and Dechaine took a 4-0 lead. Earl was unable to get any sort of comeback going and Dechaine won a lopsided 8-3 match.

Meanwhile, Ralf Souquet was taking advantage of every opportunity that Shawn Putnam presented in their match. Ralf took an early 2-0 lead and never looked back as he stretched the lead to 5-1 and then finished the match off at 8-2.

Saturday play will begin at 1pm with Mika Immonen facing Mike Davis for the hot seat, while Souquet takes on Dechaine to stay alive in the event.