Could these separators in 2019 rear their heads again with a Major on the line?
April 12, 2022 by Bennett Wineka in Analysis with comments
It’s been a couple of seasons since we last saw the Elite Series in Appling, Georgia, home of the International Disc Golf Center and formerly the Ed Headrick Disc Golf Hall of Fame Classic.
The property’s premier course, W.R. Jackson, hasn’t changed much over that time, and it remains one of many professional players’ favorite courses on tour. With more par 4 and 5s carved through the woods than par 3s, W.R. Jackson can be unkind if you find your disc off the fairway, but scoring opportunities are still plentiful and favor the bold.
Looking back at the 2019 edition of the HOFC, which holes were the difference makers for each division? It took three playoff holes for MPO champ Calvin Heimburg to separate himself from runner-up Adam Hammes, and until Sarah Hokom closed her win out in FPO over the final three holes her advantage over Paige Pierce was usually only one stroke.
Let’s remember where Hokom and Heimburg found the edge in their 2019 PDGA National Tour wins.
Limiting mistakes is key at W.R. Jackson. You still need to find strokes where you can though if you want to get and maintain a lead.
For the FPO division, the 645-foot, par 4 hole 8 and 618-foot, par 4 hole 9 were the hardest holes to par, averaging 1.17 and 0.96 strokes over par, respectively. The tough back-to-back to close out the front 9 leads into a forehand-friendly hole 10, however, which Hokom used to her advantage.
Hole 8 sets up nicely for the sidearm specialist too. Each round, Hokom threw a Relay with some height off the tee on the hole’s most difficult shot. Every day she would find a good landing zone for her uphill approach shot, getting bailed out by a nice tree kick in the final round, but executing perfectly in round 2 leading to the only birdie of the event for the FPO field.
Hokom reached Circle 2 with her second shot – she and Paige Pierce were the only two players to reach C2 in regulation over three days – and cashed the 60-footer for the lone 3. She would par hole 8 during rounds 1 and 2. For 2022, hole 8 has been changed to a par 5 for the FPO division.
On hole 9, a choose-your-own-adventure affair in the fairway, Hokom elected to forego any real birdie chance for the “safer” right side, which again favors her preferred throwing style. She shot par each day.
Compared to the field, Hokom finished holes 8 and 9 close to seven and a half strokes lower (7.43) than the average over three rounds. She was three strokes better than second place Paige Pierce on those two holes.
Having played holes 8 and 9 better than expected, Hokom dropped the hammer on the 606-foot, par 4 hole 10. Of the top tier talents on tour, Hokom is one of a few with the distance in their forehand to beat the trio of trees center cut in the fairway to round the right sweeping corner. Each round, Hokom threw a Crave off the tee to find the landing zone about 300 feet from the pin and have a relatively straight approach for a second shot. Even if she found herself off the fairway like she did in round 1, Hokom was able to huck a Relay into C1 or C2 and record a birdie. The final round showed us how a perfect tee shot allows for a sawed off approach to still be converted via an outside the circle birdie.
Hole 10 was not the most difficult hole to par like holes 8 and 9, but it is a tough 3. Only one other player was able to birdie hole 10 over three rounds, Jessica Weese, and she did it once. Hokom birdied hole 10 all three rounds.
That was another three strokes gained on Pierce for Hokom, bringing her total strokes gained over Pierce to six on holes 8 to 10 over three rounds. Hokom would eventually win the event by four strokes.
To par, holes 15 and 17 are two of the three hardest for MPO. Those two par 4s get more attention, as an error down the stretch always feels like the one that got away. Heimburg and Hammes played those holes evenly in 2019. Heimburg bogeyed hole 15 in the final round but birdied hole 17; Hammes did the same in round 2. Both players scored par on each hole in the opening round.
The margin between Heimburg and Hammes was razor thin, and instead of a dominating stretch by Heimburg on a certain area of the course, we’ll instead look at how he played one hole specifically.
Hole 5 was the other hardest hole to par for the MPO division in 2018 and 2019, averaging +0.33 strokes to par in 2019. At 432 feet, the par 3 is in a gettable range for MPO arms, just not necessarily when it’s a tunnel shot through the Georgia pines.
If there is a shot Heimburg is known for, though, it’s a direct power line with a fairway driver. Using a disc with more edge will run you the risk of shooting off further into the woods after a common tree kick. This is just how Heimburg lost strokes with bogeys in rounds 1 and 2 on hole 5.
Bogeys did not scare Heimburg, however, and in the final round, while trailing Hammes by a stroke, he went for the pin again. Right after watching Hammes play safe and forehand a midrange, Heimburg stepped up with an Eagle to attack. His disc got skinny on the right side of the “fairway” to finish inside C1.
Over three rounds, both Heimburg and Hammes were 1-over on hole 5, right on the field average. It wasn’t the separator necessarily–they did finish tied in regulation–but it’s an indicator on play style.
With the tournament on the line, Heimburg continued to lean on a trusted shot that had not treated him well earlier in the week. He got the result he needed and tied Hammes for the lead early on, setting up the back-and-forth showdown and eventual playoff victory.