2023 Champions Cup Preview: The First Major

Georgia in the springtime.

A fairway at WR Jackson. Photo: DGPT

There’s nothing quite like Georgia in the springtime, the smell of blooming flowers, freshly cut grass, and new leaves sprouting on the trees. This week, there’s excitement in the air as well, with the first Major of the season — the 2023 Champions Cup — kicking off on Thursday with over 150 of the best players in the world. Last year’s inaugural event at the International Disc Golf Center was such a success that fans and players pleaded with the PDGA to keep the event on the famed W.R. Jackson course located at the PDGA headquarters instead of moving the event to the Toboggan course in Michigan, and they got their wish.

Majors are all about building legacy: both Paul McBeth and Paige Pierce will have a chance to tie Ken Climo’s record of 18 professional Major wins with a victory this weekend. Kristin Tattar not only will look to continue her dominant run over the past two seasons but add a 3rd Major win to her resume — and earn a little redemption after failing to close out last year’s event. Players like Calvin Heimburg and Simon Lizotte have had great success on the Elite Series the past two seasons but are still looking to earn their first career Major title. Unfortunately for the injury-plagued Ricky Wysocki, he will have to wait until at least July for another chance to end his cold streak that dates back six years to his last Major win: he withdrew from the event earlier this week as he continues to deal with swelling in his wrist.

Past Winners at WR Jackson

2022 M Chris Dickerson Paige Pierce
2019 NT Calvin Heimburg (playoff) Sarah Hokom
2018 NT Paul McBeth Catrina Allen
2017 M Ricky Wysocki Paige Pierce
2017 NT Ricky Wysocki Catrina Allen
2015 NT Michael Johansen Paige Pierce
2013 NT Ricky Wysocki Sarah Cunningham
2011 A Dave Feldberg Sarah Cunningham

Majors Performance Since 2019

Name 2022 USDGC 2022 Worlds 2022 European Open 2022 Champions Cup 2021 USDGC 2021 Worlds 2020 USDGC 2019 USDGC 2019 Worlds 2019 European Open Average Adj. Average Wins
Paul McBeth 4 1 2 9 1 2 5 64 1 1 9.0 2.9 4
Ricky Wysocki 7 11 12 2 3 7 3 2 3 5.6 3.8 0
Chris Dickerson 13 12 1 5 4 1 5 5 5.8 4.7 2
Eagle McMahon 38 1 14 9 8 8 7 8 2 10.6 7.1 1
Gannon Buhr 1 14 5 12 33 13.0 8.0 1
Calvin Heimburg 3 6 8 3 45 11 2 28 20 14.0 10.1 0
James Conrad 11 38 20 11 20 1 22 1 3 8 13.5 10.8 2
Simon Lizotte 57 25 16 35 20 17 69 53 8 9 30.9 26.7 0
2022 TPWDGC 2022 Worlds 2022 European Open 2022 USWDGC 2022 Champions Cup 2021 TPWDGC 2021 Worlds 2021 USWDGC 2020 WNC 2019 USWDGC 2019 Worlds 2019 European Open Average Adj. Average Wins
Kristin Tattar 2 1 2 5 1 6 5 3.1 2.7 2
Paige Pierce 11 5 1 21 1 10 2 1 1 2 1 1 4.8 3.3 6
Catrina Allen 1 11 4 4 5 13 1 5 2 6 3 3 4.8 3.5 2
Henna Blomroos 3 2 3 7 11 4 2 4.6 3.5 0
Sarah Hokom 6 10 3 3 7 3 4 5 5.1 4.4 0
Eveliina Salonen 9 5 2 6 16 2 4 6.3 4.7 0
Ohn Scoggins 8 7 3 4 6 6 17 5 7.0 5.6 0
Missy Gannon 4 4 10 8 1 8 4 9 19 13 8.0 6.8 1
Hailey King 5 9 1 11 3 4 2 9 21 19 8.4 7.0 1

Five Things We’ll Be Watching

1. A staggering list of highly-rated players somehow failed to register for this event, leading to a play-in tournament on Monday for 8 MPO and 4 FPO spots. With a little pressure now off their shoulders, perhaps these qualifiers can put together four good rounds this weekend and contend for an unlikely win. Two-time Major champion James Conrad led the MPO field at 7-under par; also qualifying were Chandler Fry, Aaron Gossage, Nate Perkins, Matt Dollar, Dylan Horst, Tim Barham, and Andrew Presnell. 12 other MPO players failed to qualify including Garrett Gurthie, Ezra Aderhold, Kevin Jones, Andrew Marwede, Luke Humphries, and Austin Hannum. Humphries was later added off the waitlist due to player drops. Jessica Weese led the FPO players at 1-under par; also qualifying were Silva Saarinen, Emily Beach, and Haley Childs. Only Leah Tsinajinnie did not qualify, but she was ultimately able to register when another player dropped out.

2. As long as they’re still competing, Paige Pierce and Paul McBeth will always be headliners when Majors roll around. Both players have 17 career pro major titles, just one shy of the great Ken Climo. Pierce set the FPO record at 17 last season when she surpassed Valarie Jenkins. In the past, she’s eluded to a competition between her and McBeth to reach 20 Major titles, so there’s even more at stake for both players than simply matching Climo’s record of 18. Of course for McBeth, he also has the opportunity to add a Champions Cup win to his resume; Pierce already tallied a win in the inaugural event last year. If the four current MPO majors are going to be in place for the foreseeable future, McBeth needs a Champions Cup win in order to complete the career grand slam. One challenge for Pierce: she’s dealing with rotator cuff tendinitis that’s causing her pain on most throws. She’s going to play through it, but it could affect her game.

3. Speaking of career grand slams, it’s certainly worth noting that Catrina Allen would complete hers with a win at the Champions Cup. Allen is a 2-time World Champion, 2-time European Open Champion, and won the U.S. Women’s Disc Golf Championship back in 2012. Catrina has two Elite Series wins on this property, and has never finished worse than 5th.

4. Kristin Tattar entered the final round of last year’s event tied with Paige Pierce. After a double bogey on hole 15 from Pierce, Tattar had a 2 stroke lead going into the final 3 holes. Tattar’s lead was cut to 1 going into hole 18, but with a putt for eagle she seemed poised to win the event. Tattar would eventually 4-putt, handing Pierce a 2 stroke victory. It was undoubtedly the low-point of Tattar’s season: if there’s anything she still dwells on from 2022, it’s losing this event. Coming off a 5-stroke win in Nashville, and more recently a dominant 9-stroke win at the Innova Blue Ridge Championship, Tattar will have a chance at redemption this weekend while her game seems to be in excellent shape.

5. A few MPO players aside from McBeth should be getting plenty of attention this week. Calvin Heimburg has been the player of the year to this point, but he has yet to win his first career Major. Heimburg won his 2nd ever Elite Series event on the W.R. Jackson course back in 2019, when he defeated Adam Hammes in a playoff at the Hall of Fame Classic. Simon Lizotte is coming off a win at the Music City Open and also looking for his first career Major. Lizotte was part of a three way playoff with Ricky Wysocki and Paul McBeth at the 2017 Hall of Fame Classic and finished in 3rd place at the 2017 World Championships, which were held in Appling. Sadly, 6-time Major champion Ricky Wysocki will not be competing this week due to injury. Wysocki has not won a major since his 2017 World Championship, at the time it was his 4th Major win in less than a year. Wysocki came in 2nd place at last year’s event; he also won his first and most recent pro Majors on this property.

Course Changes

Designed by John Houck, W.R. Jackson was opened in 2009 and has played host to several PDGA Majors and National Tour events. Nestled on the banks of Clarks Hill Lake, the track is known for its wooded (but wide) fairways and beautiful scenery. This year a handful of changes have been made to the layouts: most notably, hole 18’s green has been moved out of the woods and into the open in front of the clubhouse to create a better spectator experience. The hole has also been reduced from a Par 5 to a Par 4, after averaging nearly 70% birdie or better last year. Hole 6 will now have a shorter FPO basket, after zero birdies were carded last year. Holes 11 and 13 have also been shortened after a combined 7 birdies carded last year; winner Paige Pierce had 4 of those 7 birdies. On the MPO side, hole 14 has been shortened by 101 feet and reduced from a Par 5 down to a Par 4.

2023 MPO: 10.392 Feet Par 66
2023 FPO: 9,047 Feet Par 67

2022 MPO: 10,485 Feet Par 68
2022 FPO: 9,299 Feet Par 68

Extended Forecast

It’s looking like a beautiful start to the weekend at the International Disc Golf Center, but a high chance of thunderstorms on Saturday could potentially lead to weather delays.

Thursday: Sunny with highs in the mid 80s. Winds 5-10mph.
Friday: Partly cloudy with highs in the mid 80s. Winds 5-10mph.
Saturday: PM thunderstorms possible with highs in the mid 70s. Winds 10-20mph. Chance of rain 80%.
Sunday: Partly cloudy with highs in the mid 70s. Winds 10-15mph.

PrizePicks has suspended offering disc golf lines. We will be back soon with a new feature in this space! (And hopefully more betting opportunities arise in the future).

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