|From left to right Shane Mcminn, Justin Bergman, Tracy Whitney.Photo courtesy of Alan Sword|
By: Markus Noé
Starting this past Friday at High Pockets Billiard and Bar, the second annual Memphis Open took place. This tournament format follows a trend as of late in which there is a limited field with a higher entry. There were 16 of the best players in North America in this field who all payed a $500 entry. The game was 10 Ball rack your own with the "Magic Rack" races to 15 on the winners side and 11 on the losers.
Canadians John Morra and Jason Klatt made the trip to Memphis Tennessee less than a week after returning from the China Open. Anyone who has made this 14 hour flight knows how hard it is to recover from. However they both showed up and won their first matches. Morra came back on Dennis Hatch 4-8 to win 15-11 and Klatt beat Rob Saez 15-14.
This set up a very intriguing match up on Saturday as the defending Memphis Open Champion Jason Klatt would be up against Morra, the recent runner up at the China Open. Morra was pegged as the overwhelming favourite in this tournament as he went for $2500 in the Calcutta. That might have something to do with the fact that no North American player has been this successful in Asia in about a decade. In a bit of a surprise this match was a blow out with Morra winning 15-5.
Klatt went on to win one more match before Shane Mcminn ended his hopes at a repeat 11-7. On the winners side of the bracket Morra and Mosconi Cup member Justin Bergman were cruising through the field. Bergman secured wins over Josh Roberts 15-7, Sky Woodward 15-9 and Johnny Archer 15-14. Meanwhile after beating Klatt, Morra secured a win over Larry Nevel 15-7 to set up this anticipated match-up in the winners side final between two young talents.
In this match it was noticeable that Morra's high level break was not where it was in his previous matches. Combined with a few unfortunate rolls and stellar play from Justin Bergman he lost 15-11. Morra then went on to play Shane Mcminn who after suffering a first round loss, rebounded to make the losers side final. On his way there he beat high caliber players such as Klatt, Nevel and Archer.
Mcminn continued playing at a high level in this match while Morra's level dropped a bit. Long hard shots that Morra was draining all weekend seemed to have left him in the later stages of this tournament. In the defense of all players these pockets looked and played extremely difficult. From what I heard on the stream they were only 4 inches wide. Getting straight in on a shot which is bad on any table was a nightmare on these tables. It makes for very entertaining matches though as the player who is playing the best position has a huge advantage, and it is always interesting to watch some of the best players in the world adjust to difficult conditions. In the end Mcminn was too strong and won this set 11-5 to earn him a shot at the Memphis Open title.
For those that don't know Mcminn he is a well known player from Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has had several notable bar box victories and was a very successful junior player . Based on his record and performance in this tournament Bergman was in for a tough final. In this race to 15 neither player was able to secure a commanding lead as no one was able to move more than 2 games ahead at a time. Pressure mounted on both players as the scoreline remained tied right up until 13-13.
This is were Bergman took advantage of a miscue by Mcminn on the 5 ball, from there he ran out to go up 14-13. In the final rack Bergman played a few very tough safeties trying to develop the table into a run out, which he finally did to become the second annual Memphis Open Champion. I would like to thank Ray Hansen for access to the fantastic stream all weekend so I could cover this event. Make sure to check out www.poolactiontv.com frequently for updates on the next events. Finally room owner and tournament organizer Tracy Whitney should be acknowledged for running a great tournament, all the pro's in this event have been raving about how he bends over backwards to accommodate the players.
Brackets and Payouts: