Surprise winners, surprise struggles.
June 29, 2022 by Christopher Wiklund in Analysis, Opinion with comments
All of a sudden, it is fully summer and we are IN IT. No more are we in the early summer and “getting into the swing of the things” on tour. Nope, we’ve got some full-on storylines, some valid trends and patterns, and, I dare say, even some things to raise our eyebrows at.
Personally, my favorite part of this season has been the chaos. MPO has seen seven unique winners this season after Bradley Williams’ win at The Preserve; in FPO, there have been four unique winners over nine Elite Series events. No one player has separated themselves from the pack and put their stamp on the season in either division. This has made for one of the most compelling and confounding seasons in recent memory.
A crucial chaos agent this season has been Aaron Gossage. He entered this season with one top 10 and two top 20 finishes at ES events. This year, Gossage has three top 10 finishes, two of which are third place finishes. He is still dropping the occasional finish outside the top 15, but those have become more the exception than the rule. At this point, we put the GLI (Goosage Loosage Index) at a 7/10. Be advised, the Goose is still very much on the loose.
Chaos thrives when the natural order of things has been upset, and with Paul McBeth’s perplexing play, Ricky Wysocki’s ongoing fight with Lyme, Chris Dickerson’s aversion to flight, and Eagle McMahon’s injury preventing him from participating in the fun this season, the natural order has indeed been upset. This has created a power vacuum at the top of MPO into which Simon Lizotte has boldly stepped. He has not missed the podium since late April and had a very real chance at making it three wins in a row in Minnesota this weekend. Simon Lizotte, agent of order, bulwark against the chaos. What a world.
In FPO, the tumult has been more a clashing of mighty titans. The division has seen the complete opposite of a power vacuum at the top this season. Instead it’s been an all out brawl at the top of the field between Paige Pierce, Catrina Allen, Kristin Tattar, and Valerie Mandujano. All four women have had excellent seasons so far, and Mandujano’s emergence as a top contender has helped keep things interesting at the top while Tattar has been home in Estonia. She is scheduled to be rejoining the tour for the European Open and beyond, though, which means we will have at least four ‘week in and week out’ contenders for the win.
Four months into the season it’s safe to say that there are a handful of players who would happily take a mulligan on the season if it was available.
McBeth is having easily the worst season of his career. If he’s fighting an injury or there’s something else going on behind the scenes, we probably won’t find out until after the season. If he’s more focused on his foundation’s work for this year, fine, more power to him. McBeth is probably the only player in MPO who has achieved such a position where he can choose the degree to which he minds the “regular season” and can more or less decide to focus on the tournaments which matter most to him. There is no way I will be surprised if McBeth takes down every Major left on the calendar and a DGPT playoff event.
Kevin Jones is also having a forgettable and regrettable season. He has only two top 10 finishes at Elite Series events this year and is averaging a 19.6th place finish. Jones signed a long term deal with Prodigy in the offseason, which included the company running a signature line of discs for him.
Kona Panis’ half a million dollar deal with Dynamic Discs is looking similarly tough at this point in the season. Like Jones, she only has two top 10 finishes so far this season. Unlike Jones, she is in the middle of learning a whole new bag and was widely considered more valuable to DD as a member of their marketing efforts than an on-the-course force.
Since all systems tend towards chaos, and the center cannot hold, we expect that things will only get wonkier as the season progresses. Thermodynamics and poetry aside, we are moving toward the more heavily wooded portion of the season as the tour hops overseas for a hot minute before coming back stateside for Worlds and the final turn back east. It is usually this stretch of the season where we see players make their best cases for consideration in the Player of the Year races, and we have the most prestigious events.
A strong second half by Jones and Panis will all but erase the first half of the season, just as quickly as a weak second half will relegate Gossage to the pile of “remember when.”