September 2, 2022 by Kingsley Flett in Analysis with comments
Former US Navy Seal Jocko Willinick has found an audience in the world of motivational podcasts and literature with his own brand of hard-bitten stoicism. His advice for dealing with whatever fate lays in front of you? Start with the word ‘good’, e.g., “missed our rendezvous with the chopper? Good. Now we get to walk.”
I was reminded of this today when I saw Paul McBeth’s grim smile during his post-round interview after round-three at Jones Park in the PDGA Pro World Championships. Terry Miller had asked him about his leg. It was Disc Golf Network commentator Nate Doss who first noticed the limp though. “Now I’m not saying anything,” said Doss, looking to reassure the audience that his expertise lay more in disc golf and brewing beer than sports medicine. “But I can see that Paul is favoring that left leg.”
“I had a cramp yesterday about hole 17 and it hasn’t left my calf,’ McBeth said after the round. “I’ve been trying everything but it’s still there so I’m just trying to get off it as quick as possible but keep it moving and keep it loose. I’m getting no push off my back leg so I’m going to straddle putt from here on out. I’ll see if I can loosen it up and get some push but, if not, I’ll have to use both legs.” When Terry Miller suggested that the issue might be more serious and asked if he’d sought any professional help, McBeth said, “I’m just trying to work on it like it’s a cramp and then after the tournaments done, we’ll see.”
Muscle strain in the left leg? Good. Now I get to push off on my right.
Facing an uphill putt from the edge of circle-two on hole 18, to share the lead with Aaron Gossage, McBeth drained the shot of the day and gave a little fist pump as he hobbled to the basket. “I felt like I’ve had a chance to make a putt on that hole for quite a while,” he said. “I felt like I could put my right leg back and launch it up there. As soon as I let it go, I knew it was in.”
The camera switched to Gossage’s face after the putt. All the co-leader could do was smile and mouth ‘wow’. So far Gossage has looked like he belonged walking the fairways as leader of the World Championships. If he’s having any ‘pinch me’ moments, he’s keeping them to himself and looks assured and in command. After sailing his first drive over the back of the wall of the island on hole one, he kept a clean sheet and threw 10-under-par.
His fellow Coloradan and pool-B hero Tristan Tanner had a similarly rough start but didn’t look so assured in the early going. He carded a couple of bogeys and was one-over-par after the first five holes while he watched his card mates string birdies together. “He looked disconnected and stressed out,” said Disc Golf Network commentator Ian Anderson. Tanner found his groove on the back nine though and, but for an unlucky tree-kick into OB on hole 17, might have stayed on the top card. He’s three throws off the lead, tied for 4th place with Calvin Heimburg.
Ricky Wysocki’s eyes showed the same hardness as McBeth’s after the round. When asked about the 49-foot putt from the knee on hole six that kicked off a streak of 10 birdies, Wysocki said, “That started me off on the right track. I was happy to do that to get my round going. I still have a great chance to win and that’s really all I’m here to do – is win. I really play well at The Country Club, that’s my best course of the two and I think that if I finish with two 10 or 11-unders then I’m going to win. It’s time to pounce now, there’s no more missed gimme putts, there’s no more games. The next three rounds it’s going to be game on. It’s me verses me. If I can win the mental and physical battle, then I’m going to win the tournament.”
The story of Paige Pierce’s round was told in two holes: back-to-back double bogies on holes five and six. Erase those blemishes and the five-time world champ would be sharing the lead. On five, she airmailed her par putt into OB. On six, she missed the island, then had her bogey putt spat out left by the basket. She re-adjusted her hat and gave a grim little smile that said ‘good.’ Pierce then ripped a massive, high, turning drive on hole seven that set up an eagle three. She then proceeded to birdie six out of the next ten holes. She’s four throws off the pace and will be waiting to pounce from tomorrow’s chase card.
Kristin Tattar also had a rough start with three bogeys in the first five holes. It tested her mental resolve. “Even if you are trying not to think about it, it’s obvious that you kinda think about it,” she said when asked about comparing her weaker round to her 10-under round 1. “Sometimes it just works, and it feels easy, and you feel like you are practically doing nothing. That’s what you practiced, and it just works out. Then other days it’s like today, when you are trying, trying and nothing is working the way it should and of course it’s frustrating a little. I missed a couple of short putts and was not very good from long range. Something was off today but it’s not the end of the world.”
Tattar stemmed the bleeding though. She finished her round holding a share of the lead with Finland’s Henna Blomroos, who threw a nine-under-par round, hitting 95% of her fairways. Joining them on tomorrow’s lead card will be Eveliina Salonen, who hit 100% of her fairways to go with her 10 birdies. This makes it three European players on the lead card with Texan newcomer Holyn Handley.
“I’m so happy to play with Henna and Eveliina,” said Tattar. “They are great competitors and very good friends. I haven’t played with Holyn for a long time either, so I’m looking forward to it for sure.”
Will the lack of spectators become one of the stories of this Worlds? Or have we just been spoiled by the recent galleries at the European Open? The crowd following the top cards in Emporia are still thin and the bleachers around hole 18 are mostly empty. One clue may lie in the ticket pricing structure issued by the event, which only offered $100 all-week passes to either the Country Club or Jones Supreme and then a $40 Saturday-only pass for the final round. Local disc golf fans may have needed an extra incentive to watch the early rounds and are probably saving their pennies for Saturday.
Nevertheless, despite the lack of crowd noise, the event has not lacked in atmosphere so far: close scoring, multiple players from either division who are still in the race, and some unexpected top contenders are creating plenty of interest.
Who’s going to pounce on day four? As Paul McBeth says, “We’ll see.”