A battle for the ages.
July 29, 2022 by Justin Westfall in Analysis with comments
The European Open returned with a bang last week, bringing a record crowd of over 5,500 spectators and historical finishes in both the FPO and MPO divisions. Paige Pierce became the winningest FPO player in PDGA major history, chasing down Eveliina Salonen to win back-to-back European Open titles. And in the MPO division, Eagle McMahon and Paul McBeth quickly ran away with the tournament, going shot for shot and dueling with each other until the final hole. The two players averaged nearly 30 PDGA rating points above the next closest competitor and finished 16 strokes ahead of the field. The result was McMahon’s 2nd career major win — and the highest rated major win in PDGA history.
Eagle had not played much disc golf in the three months since the Jonesboro Open, where he dropped out during the final round after reinjuring his shoulder. McMahon admitted that he was not 100% coming into this week, and aside from the world championship next month and USDGC, he does not plan on playing again this year. Even so, he flew to Finland and did the unthinkable, slaying the course known as the Beast — and the 5-time European Open champion known as McBeast — without throwing a single forehand. Eagle averaged a 1074 event rating, the highest in PDGA major history. He led the event in strokes gained putting, finished 2nd in strokes gained tee to green, and birdied 48 of 72 holes. Eagle also led in scramble rate, converting on 6-of-10 opportunities. Not allowing himself to throw a sidearm, McMahon opted for a lefty backhand teeshot on hole 2 in each round. While he managed to card a birdie in the opening two rounds, he would go on to bogey it in round 3, and take a par in the final round. When McMahon is healthy, his forehand is arguably the best in the world, so losing three strokes to Paul McBeth on this hole was certainly a hindrance. It’s hard to state just how incredible this win is, even if Eagle were at full health and had been touring consistently it would be considered a huge achievement. To play at the pace he did for all four rounds, with Paul McBeth chasing him the whole way, is simply legendary.
For the second time in just over a year, Paul played outstanding in a major championship and came up one stroke short. Finishing 2nd in strokes gained tee to green and 3rd in strokes gained putting, McBeth carded four fewer birdies than McMahon but was able to card 2 eagles — and only had 5 bogeys the entire weekend. Unfortunately for Paul, three of those bogeys came on hole 15, which bit him worse than any other on the Beast. While McMahon finished just ahead in the putting stats, McBeth matched him putt-for-putt in circle 2 with both players canning 7 in 16 attempts. His 1072 average round rating is the 2nd highest of his career at a major, just behind his 2019 world championship. It’s also 11 points higher than his previous best event rating in Europe.
Finishing 11th in strokes gained tee to green and 18th in strokes gained putting doesn’t sound like the recipe for a podium finish, but thanks to some clean throwing, that’s all Kevin Jones needed. Jones had the 3rd best OB rate, finished 4th in fairway hits, and took no double bogeys or worse during the tournament. Surprisingly, Kevin didn’t scramble very well, making good on just 2-of-10 attempts, including 4 misses in the opening round. Averaging nearly 30 points less than McBeth at 1043, the European Open was just the 4th highest event rating of his career at a major, but his 2nd podium finish.
The reigning European Champion finished higher than any other European at the event, despite finishing just 24th in strokes gained tee to green. Anttila made it up on the putting green where he finished 8th best, a necessary achievement given the fact that he only parked two holes the entire tournament. Similar to Jones, Niklas had the 3rd best OB rate and did not card any double bogeys or worse. Earning both his first top 10 and top 5 finish at a major, Anttila averaged the 6th highest event rating of his career at 1042.
UDisc had Kramer ranked as the 64th MPO player in the world going into the European Open, but the forehand specialist from Texas put on quite a show. Chandler played his first PDGA event just over two years ago and finished 68th at the Champions Cup earlier this year. You may have noticed neither McMahon nor McBeth led the event in strokes gained tee to green: that title went to Kramer. Over the course of the week, Chandler racked up birdies on 36-of-72 holes and averaged a 1040 event rating, the 2nd highest of his career. Unfortunately, he took 13 OB strokes and finished 66th in strokes gained putting, just below the field average. His toughest obstacle seemed to be hole 3, a par 5 which he bogeyed three times and took 5 OB strokes on. While Kramer was not on anybody’s radar coming into this event, his last three Elite Series finishes on the Disc Golf Pro Tour have all been in the top 25.
Counter to Anttila, Mäkelä struggled on the putting green but finished 8th best in strokes gained tee to green. In fact, Väinö finished top 8 in fairway hits, holes parked, C1 and C2 in regulation. The Beast got the better of him on hole 15 where he shot 3 over par during the tournament, and the island hole 16, where he finished 4 over par. His 6th place finish slightly improves on his previous best major finish of 7th at the 2017 European Open.
Another player who earned a top 10 finish thanks to staying in the fairways, Nieminen finished T-6th with Mäkelä despite coming in just 20th in strokes gained tee to green and 48th in strokes gained putting. Jesse had the lowest OB rate in the MPO field, carding just 4 penalty strokes. He also finished 4th in fairway hits and 8th in holes parked. Most importantly, Jesse never let the course get the better of him and finished with round scores of 58, 58, 59 and 57. This was technically Nieminen’s worst major finish, having come in 5th at his only other major, the 2019 European Open.
Calvin Heimburg had a nice week on the green, finishing 4th in strokes gained putting. While he finished just 17th in strokes gained tee to green, his biggest struggle was staying in bounds. Calvin finished 78th in OB rate with 15 penalty strokes, 11 more than Nieminen. He also finished 75th in scramble percentage despite his above average putting. An 8th place finish may seem a bit disappointing, but it’s actually Calvin’s 3rd best finish at a major championship. His most impressive feat was birdieing hole 15 in three rounds; no other player in the field birdied it more than once. Unfortunately, he also took a triple bogey on it in round two, a tough day in which he finished 1-over par, a 992 rated round.
Coming off a win at the Tyyni Open on the European Pro Tour, Lehtinen earned an 11th place finish at the European Open having never broken the top 50 in his prior majors. Lehtinen finished 4th in strokes gained tee to green and led the event in holes parked with 16 tap-ins. However, Lauri lost over 3 strokes to the field on the greens, finishing 86th in strokes gained putting. While his C1X putting wasn’t far from his season average, he only went 1-of-16 putting from C2. He struggled on hole 15 where he shot 4 over par on the week, but also managed to shoot 3 under par on the difficult hole 18.
Considered the favorite by many coming into this event, Wysocki played similar to Heimburg in terms of their successes and struggles. Ricky was 6th best in strokes gained putting, but only 27th in strokes gained tee to green. He also carded 15 OB strokes and finished just 15th in birdie percentage. Wysocki’s 1021 rated second round was his lowest rated round of the season until he followed it up with a 1006 rated third round. For Ricky, it’s the first time he has not made the top 10 at a major since the 2014 USDGC.
While he’s still inconsistent in both phases of the game, Ezra flipped the script on his season and was far better on the putting green than he was off the tee in Finland. Finishing 3rd in strokes gained putting, Aderhold led the tournament from Circle 2, going 10-of-22. His C1X putting was 11% higher than his season average, and his C2 putting came in 16 percentage points higher. Ezra tied the best finish of his career at a major and has now finished in the top 15 at four consecutive majors.
Ironically, Brodie Smith had to fly all the way to Finland to secure a spot at the 2022 USDGC. For the second year in a row, Smith tied for the final spot and had to win a playoff in order to earn his USDGC invite. Although he just missed a top 15 finish, Brodie improved on his previous best major finish of 40th and earned the 3rd highest Elite Series or major finish of his career. Smith’s biggest struggle in Nokia was putting from long range, where he went just 1-of-14 from C2.
In her 150th career PDGA win, Paige Pierce won her 17th FPO major championship, more than any other player in PDGA history. She also became the winningest FPO player in the history of the European Open, now with three titles to her name. Pierce carded six more birdies than the next best player and led the field in strokes gained putting. She also finished 3rd in strokes gained tee to green and led the field in C1 in regulation. Paige has now won at least half of the major championships in each season since 2016 and has not lost two consecutive majors in that time.
After tying the highest rated round of her career at 1028 in round two, Eveliina held an eight stroke lead over Paige Pierce but was unable to hold her off for 36 more holes. Salonen led the event in strokes gained tee to green, fairways hits, and C2 in regulation. She also finished 5th in strokes gained putting, improving in her C1X season average by 20% and her C2 putting average by 9%. The 971 event rating is Eveliina’s 2nd highest rating at a major championship, behind the 2019 world championship where she also finished as the runner-up to Pierce.
Leading in OB rate with eight penalty strokes and finishing 2nd in strokes gained tee to green, the 2019 runner-up was terrific getting off the box and onto the greens. Unfortunately for Henna, she lost over three strokes to the field putting, finishing 21st out of 23 players in strokes gained. Despite poor putting statistics, Blomroos led the field in scramble percentage and now has three consecutive podium finishes at the European Open.
The 2-time European Open champion struggled to card birdies throughout the week, earning just one in the opening two rounds and six total on the week. Catrina finishing 2nd in strokes gained putting and 6th in strokes gained tee to green but carded 28 bogey strokes on the week, including 15 just on holes 3, 13 and 18 combined. Even with a disappointing result, Catrina continues her 36 event streak of never finishing worse than 6th place at an FPO major.
Mertsch earned not only her first top 10 finish at a major but also her first top 5 major finish in Nokia. While she was unable to convert a scramble attempt going 0-for-16, she led the tournament in OB rate with Blomroos. Kat has now averaged 955, 956, and 954 in the three major championships she has played this season. She also earned her 3rd top 5 finish at ES and majors.
Tying the best major finish of her career, Kona earned her 4th top 10 finish at a major at EO. Panis finished 4th in strokes gained tee to green and was 10th in strokes gained putting, just below the average of the field. Her final round was just one stroke off Pierce’s hot round, averaging a 973 rating, the 3rd highest of her career at a major.