MATCH PLAY: Rd. 1 | Rd. 2
DALLAS - Colombia's Maria José Rodriguez averaged 223 and posted an 11-5 record in match play through the first two rounds to lead the field Sunday at the 2022 Professional Women's Bowling Association Tour Championship.
Rodriguez, the 2018 PWBA Tour Championship winner, finished her day at USA Bowl with a 3,898 total, which included 30 bonus pins for each victory in the round-robin format for the third major of the 2022 season.
Stephanie Zavala of Downey, California, leaped from 15th place to second in the standings after averaging more than 246 during Sunday's second round, including games of 297 and 300, with a 3,887 total.
Breanna Clemmer of Clover, South Carolina (3,877), Colombia's Laura Plazas (3,818) and defending champion Shannon Pluhowsky of Dayton, Ohio (3,798), also are in the top five at USA Bowl.
All competitors will return to USA Bowl on Monday at 11 a.m. Eastern for the final eight-game block of match play. The top five will advance to Tuesday's stepladder finals and compete for the $50,000 top prize.
BowlTV.com will broadcast the final match-play round, and the stepladder will air Tuesday at 7 p.m. Eastern on CBS Sports Network.
Rodriguez is a two-time major winner on the PWBA Tour, but she's been battling a couple injuries to her right foot since breaking her toe in 2019.
She stayed on the lanes instead of rehabbing her injury with a steady list of events on her schedule, which has presented new challenges for the 33-year-old right-hander.
"I broke my toe in 2019 after the (International Bowling Federation) World Championships, but I didn't do anything and kept bowling," said Rodriguez, the 2014 United States Bowling Congress Queens champion. "Then 2020 happened, and I didn't bowl and thought it was fine. But, I was walking weird and created a habit of walking different. I somehow sprained my ankle, then fibrosis, then I didn't put any pressure on my toe and plantar fasciitis was the last thing. It was a lot of things with my heel, ankle and toe."
Rodriguez found the right treatment and diagnosis to start her path to recovery in Colombia prior to the start of the 2022 season, with the support of the country's Olympic committee. Although there are things that still cause pain to the foot, she's found a combination that allows her to execute the powerful delivery that's helped her become one of Colombia's most decorated athletes on the lanes.
"It was better once I did all the rehab and the whole situation of figuring out what I had," said Rodriguez, who recently won gold in singles, doubles and team at the 2022 Bolivarian Games for Team Colombia. "I messed it up badly when I broke my toe and didn't do the rehab. I can't wear any normal shoe. Any shoe just hurts it a lot. If I bowl in my tennis shoe, it's a little better. When I tried to push with my bowling shoe, it was getting worse again. I put my tennis shoe back on, and now I feel better."
Rodriguez qualified for the Tour Championship in 23rd place after missing match play at the first two events of the Dallas Classic Series (PWBA Dallas Classic and PWBA Pepsi Classic). She rolled 224 in her final game Friday at the Pepsi Classic to secure her spot in the 24-player field at the Tour Championship.
The Dallas Classic Series features three events - Dallas Classic, Pepsi Classic and Tour Championship - with the combined qualifying totals for the Dallas Classic and Pepsi Classic (24 games) determining the 24 advancers for the Tour Championship.
Pinfall dropped for all athletes at the beginning of the Tour Championship.
Even though she's sitting in the lead with one round to go, Rodriguez finished Sunday short of the goal she set for herself after the first block of match play.
After narrowly earning her spot at the Tour Championship, to go along with more close calls than she'd like, she wants to get out to a strong start Monday and put some distance between herself and the rest of the field.
"My goal was to get to plus-800, because I want to lead by a lot," said Rodriguez, who finished at plus-698. "I always need a double in the 10th to make a show or the top 24, and I'm human and don't do it all the time. I want to be out there with a cushion, because you don't know what can happen tomorrow."
Bryanna Coté of Tucson, Arizona, won the Dallas Classic on Thursday for her fourth PWBA Tour title, and Ukraine's Dasha Kovalova claimed her fifth career title Saturday at the Pepsi Classic.