Defending champion Bill O’Neill of Southampton, PA, steadily advanced into the early third round lead in the 68th Lumber Liquidators U.S. Open at Brunswick Zone-Carolier Thursday, hoping to turn a month of mourning into a week of celebration. O’Neill, who sat in fifth place behind leader Fero Williams of Fairfield, Ohio, after 12 games, averaged 227.44 for 18 games to finish qualifying with 4,094 pins and a 103-pin lead over 2006 U.S. Open champion Tommy Jones of Simpsonville, SC. Williams was among the one-third of field that had not yet completed its third round. The field will be cut to the top 95 at the conclusion of Thursday night's final squad. O’Neill, who won the Pepsi Viper Championship earlier in the season for his third career title, wasn’t in a hurry to take the lead. “There are a lot of guys here who can have a good day, but stringing them together is the hard part,” O’Neill said. “I had a really good day. Whenever I hit the pocket, I struck, which is telling me my ball is doing the right thing. “Basically I used the same ball for this same squad last year,” he continued. “I’m very confident right now. Things have been going well. Now that I’ve been around for a few years, I’m starting to figure things out.” O’Neill admitted, however, that he stumbled briefly Wednesday night when he started thinking about the recent death of his grandfather. “Last night the first couple of games were a little rough,” he said. “My whole family was here. I started thinking about my grandfather who passed away the day we started bowling in the Tournament of Champions (in late January), so it was tough to get out of my own way for a couple of games. I was super close to my grandpop, so I’m trying not to think about him. I’m trying to focus on my bowling, but I’m definitely dedicating this tournament to him.” The top 95 after 18 games will advance to Friday morning’s eight-game cashers’ round. The top 24 will then advance to the round-robin match play finals, bowling three more eight-game rounds Friday night, Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon. ESPN2 will provide live coverage of Friday night’s final two games of match play at 6 p.m. Eastern. After a total of 50 games, the top six will advance to the stepladder finals which will begin with two matches live on ESPN2 Saturday at 10 p.m. Eastern. The No. 5 qualifier will bowl against the No. 6 qualifier, with the winner taking on the No. 4 player. Saturday’s winner will join the top three finalists for Sunday’s championship round at 3 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. First prize in the event is $80,000. During U.S. Open week, pba.com’s Xtra Frame video streaming service is providing more than 70 hours of live coverage of qualifying and match play rounds. To subscribe to Xtra Frame, visit pba.com and click on the Xtra Frame logo. 68TH LUMBER LIQUIDATORS U.S. OPEN Brunswick Zone-Carolier, North Brunswick, N.J., Thursday EARLY THIRD ROUND (top 50 after 18 games; one-third of the field had not yet completed its final qualifying round) 1, Bill O'Neill, Southampton, Pa., 4,094. 2, Tommy Jones, Greenville, S.C., 3,991. 3, Dan MacLelland, Saginaw, Mich., 3,944. 4, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., 3,879. 5, Matthew O'Grady, South Amboy, N.J., 3,878. 6, Ryan Shafer, Horseheads, N.Y., 3,873. 7, Joe Ciccone, Buffalo, N.Y., 3,869. 8, Anthony LaCaze, Melrose Park, Ill., 3,858. 9, E.J. Tackett, Huntington, Ind., 3,855. 10, John Szczerbinski, North Tonawanda, N.Y., 3,849. 11, Pete Weber, St. Ann, Mo., 3,839. 12, Jason Belmonte, Australia, 3,838. 13, Mike Fagan, Patchogue, N.Y., 3,826. 14, Mike Wolfe, New Albany, Ind., 3,823. 15, Danny Wiseman, Baltimore, 3,823. 16, John Furey, East Windsor, N.J., 3,810. 17, Martin Larsen, Sweden, 3,803. 18, Jeff Carter, Springfield, Ill., 3,786. 19, Eugene McCune, Munster, Ind., 3,785. 20, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Ocala, Fla., 3,781. 21, Alex Aguiar, Dartmouth, Mass., 3,779. 22, Brian Valenta, Lockport, Ill., 3,768. 23, Steve Jaros, Yorkville, Ill., 3,764. 24, Juhani Tonteri, Finland, 3,763. 25, Shannon Buchan, Waterloo, Iowa, 3,760. 26, Robert Klann, San Antonio, Texas, 3,752. 27, Kevin Maurice, Canada, 3,750. 28, Lonnie Waliczek, Wichita, Kan., 3,743. 29, Chris Loschetter, Avon, Ohio, 3,738. 30, Stuart Williams, England, 3,723. 31, Patrick Allen, Wesley Chapel, Fla., 3,721. 32, Jason Couch, Clermont, Fla., 3,719. 33, Brad Angelo, Lockport, N.Y., 3,711. 34, Bryson Rogers, Durham, N.C., 3,706. 35, Brian Himmler, Cincinnati, 3,705. 36, Christopher Collins, Savannah, Ga., 3,703. 37, Mason Brantley, Detroit, 3,696. 38, Kelly Kulick, Union, N.J., 3,695. 39, Ernest Lukacs Jr., Manville, N.J., 3,692. 40, (tie) Patrick Girard, Canada, and Marcus Berndt, Sweden, 3,684. 42, Miguel Lopez, Wichita, Kan., 3,683. 43, Josh Blanchard, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., 3,679. 44, Ryan Ciminelli, Cheektowaga, N.Y., 3,677. 45, Corey Husted, Milwaukie, Ore., 3,674. 46, Tom Baker, King, N.C., 3,674. 47, Joe Paluszek, Bensalem, Pa., 3,673. 48, Joseph Hostetler, Minerva, Ohio, 3,670. 49, P.J. Sonday, Luzerne, Pa., 3,668. 50, Ryan Abel, Bel Aire, Kan., 3,665.