RENO, NEVADA, SEPTEMBER 8, 2006 (STAR) A streaking Francisco "Django" Bustamante posted his third straight sweep of group competitions, topping Match 66 to lead six other Filipino bets into the fourth round of the IPT World Open 8-ball Championship at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nevada Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).

Efren "Bata" Reyes pocketed three games and lost one to reach the next stage of the $3 million event, so did fellow former world 9-ball champion Alex Pagulayan, Dennis Orcollo, Antonio Lining, US-based pool legend Jose Parica and Ronnie Alcano, the only other Filipino who topped his group assignment with three victories in Match 65.

But Rodolfo Luat and Ramil Gallego fell by the wayside, each dropping three matches with only a victory to show in Groups 68 and 69, respectively. They went home with $15,000 (roughly P750,000) each, leaving the Philippines with seven bets in the fourth round.

The surviving field is now grouped into six of six players each with the top three finishers advancing to the next level. Those who will not make it will earn $25,000.

But while the Philippines had seven players in the last 36, the United States had nine, headed by Corey Deuel, Nick Varner and Jason Kirkwood, setting the stage for another RP-US clash after the recent World Cup duel which the Filipinos won, 13-5, through Bustamante and Reyes.

In fact, Bustamante has been playing inspired game since that World Cup victory with the former world No. 1 still has to drop a match in 13 games. He hopes to sustain that run in the fourth round Thursday (Friday in Manila) as he heads Group 78 that includes Lining, Danny Harriman, Tony Drago, Marko Lohtander and Oliver Ortmann.

Reyes, long considered as one of the world’s greatest pool players, has been relegated to the background owing to Bustamante’s hot streak but the 1999 world 9-ball champion remained as tough as ever and his mettle will be tested in Group 75 that features Charles Bryant, Rodney Morris, Charles Williams and Jason Miller of the US and Ben Davies.

Pagulayan found himself bunched with Alcano in Group 77 as they battle Finland’s Mika Immonen, Larry Nevel of the US, Fabio Petroni of Italy and Deuel for the top three berths.

, while Orcollo and Parica are in Group 73 alongside Scot Karl Boyes, Thomas Engert and Michael Schmidt of Germany and Yannick Beaufils.

The 18 players will advance to the fifth round where they will be grouped into three of six players. The top two finishers in each group advance to the next level where the top six will play in a round robin phase. The top two finishers will dispute the top $500,000 purse.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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