A great way to kick off major season.
April 21, 2022 by Christopher Wiklund in Analysis, Opinion with comments
The first Major of the 2022 season had it all: thrills, chills, ups, downs, and a sprinkle of controversy at the end.
Chris Dickerson and Paige Pierce took home the wins. This is Dickerson’s second major victory and his third win of the season. In our most recent Power Rankings, I suggested that no MPO player had separated themselves from the pack. Dickerson has now won three of the last four events he has played in (though two of them were Silver Series events) and placed in the top 10 in 6 of his 8 events this season. Players like Ricky Wysocki, Calvin Heimburg, and Paul McBeth have put together strong campaigns as well. Wysocki has three straight podium finishes and a win at Texas States to hang his hat on, Heimburg has three straight podiums but no wins, and McBeth has a couple wins but has been plagued by some rough rounds which have cost him.
Along with the major win, what has begun to separate Dickerson from the pack is that he has only had seven rounds where he has carded more than one bogey or worse, and only 18 such holes on the season. By comparison, McBeth has carded 13 bogeys or worse, Heimburg has taken 22 bogeys or worse, and Wysocki has 24 bogeys or worse. While McBeth has taken fewer single bogeys, he has taken more double bogeys: five to Dickerson’s two. Both McBeth and Dickerson have one triple bogey.
At this level of competition, and with the depth of the field, these extra strokes can mean the difference between a round which will keep a player in contention for the win and one that will knock someone out of the top five. The final round at Champions Cup is illustrative: Dickerson went bogey-free while Wysocki took two bogeys and Heimburg took a double and a single bogey. Those extra strokes were the difference.
Kristin Tattar has probably been the most consistently excellent player in FPO this season, and was leading the event going into the final holes of the final round, but she couldn’t hold off Paige Pierce. Pierce carded a triple bogey 7 on the first hole of the event, and it took her all weekend to recover, but she caught Kristin by the end of round three and managed to eke out the win late when Tattar four-putted on the 18th hole. Pierce deserves all the credit in the world for her competitive drive and ability to keep her head in the game, but this was Tattar’s event to win. So far Tattar has been kept off the top spot on the podium in 2021.
Pierce has long since guaranteed her legacy as the greatest woman to ever play the game, and perhaps as one of the greatest players ever regardless of gender. Tying Valarie Jenkins Doss for the all-time major lead in FPO further cements her status. In the long run, Pierce is playing with house money and has nothing more to prove, but getting her second win in a row at probably the most important event so far and at the most challenging course the tour has hit this season probably feels pretty darn good.
Dickerson is not on Pierce’s level from a long-view-of-history stand point, but he is making a strong argument that he should be discussed as among the greatest of all time. Dickerson is the only player who has won at least one major, one DGPT Tour Championship, and a Silver Series event. And, note, he has two Majors and two Tour Championships. He has won 53% of the events he has played in. Dickerson only has one DGPT Elite Series win under his belt — the 2021 Green Mountain Championship — but it’s worth noting that Dickerson has never participated in a full tour, as we’ve come to define it in recent years, until this year. On top of all that, there are only 16 players who have ever won two or more majors, and only eight of those have more than two major titles to their name. Dickerson is among those elite 16.
Calvin Heimburg is so close to a Major win we can taste it. He has three Elite Series event wins to his name, 15 podiums, and 35 top 10s. In 2021, he was not really in the mix by the time the final putt landed but in 2020 he nearly took down USDGC in the rain. For better or worse, Heimburg has landed himself in that weird place of “but.” Right now, Heimburg is among the best players of his generation, but…no Major. It’s not fair, but it’s where we are. The thing is, 2020 USDGC and Champions Cup are Heimburg’s only top 10 finishes at a Major.
Kristin Tattar’s daughter, age 9, had been on course as Tattar’s caddy during the final round. I don’t need to rehash the details — you can see them in this recap. Regardless of where you stand on the rule itself — “A caddie is a person who carries a player’s equipment or provides other assistance during the round. Players may designate one caddie at a time during their round. A caddie must be at least 13 years of age and must comply with the same Official Rules of Disc Golf and Competition Manual their player must follow, including the dress code, although a caddie need not be a PDGA member nor Certified Official” — or who was to blame, this is the second event this season where we have seen specific rules on specific players brought up in a highly visible and perhaps inequitable manner. At the Music City Open, Jeff Spring went to Nikko Locastro’s group and gave Locastro a time warning for playing too slowly.
The PDGA rules are clear in that only members of the players’ group can call or enforce rules violations. They are also clear that, “In PDGA Majors and Elite Series events, the group consists of the players themselves, each player’s individual caddie, any active Tournament staff such as leaderboard attendants, Tournament Officials, etc. and any credentialed media ONLY. No other people may be with the playing group. All others (including players who have already finished their round) are considered spectators and must remain in designated spectator areas away from the playing group.” Based on this, it’s hard to argue that Spring or Elaine King was breaking a rule by enforcing (or alerting, in the case of King) rules on Locastro and Tattar; however, it is the timing and manner in which they chose to exercise their rights as “members of the group” which could be a question mark. We are not going to play Monday Morning QB or entertain counterfactuals here, but what these two incidents highlight is the need for improved, uniform enforcement of rules across all cards of Elite Events, and for the DGPT and PDGA to remove the onus of enforcement from the players and take it on as a responsibility themselves.
The PDGA and DGPT have set the precedent that they can and will target specific players for rules enforcement at seemingly random points during the round. Doubtless there were plenty of officials and folks’ familiar with the rules on hand at the start of Tattar’s round, so why was that rule not enforced before teeing off, and not until the round was well under way? Doubtless there are other players who are as slow or even slower than Locastro who are not being tailed by the Tour Director. Doubtless there were plenty of caddies and players who were in violation of the dress code or any number of other event rules throughout the weekend and were not required to send them into the gallery.
It is highly unlikely that we will see standardized and professional rules officials on each card or hole this season, but this is something which should be on the to-do-list for 2023 and beyond. As we start to see purses grow, and each event that pushes or breaks the record is very proud to point out that their purses are huge, the inequitable enforcement of rules is going to start costing players some real money. In this instance, it may have cost Tattar at least $3,250.
– We usually describe the early part of the season as heavily favoring wide open bomber style courses. That has not necessarily been the case this year. We have seen a much more balanced approach to course selection, with Vegas, Belton, and Music City and half of Waco showing off open-air play, and Texas States, half of Waco, and Champions Cup flashing more woods game. This is great!
– Ohn Scoggins hasn’t finished outside of the top 10 since Vegas, and has finished in the top four in 4 of her last 6 events. Just in case you didn’t realize how consistently excellent Scoggins has played across all courses and styles.
– Adam Hammes has somehow ducked the criticisms which have been aimed at other high profile next-generation type players like Kona Panis. Hammes hasn’t made the top 10 at an Elite Series event since Vegas, and has more finishes outside the top 50 (3) than he does finishes in the top 20 (1) since then. In fact, while Panis has been steadily improving her finishes since Waco, Hammes has been trending downwards. He finished 88th this weekend.
– Valerie Mandujano finished outside of the top five for the first time since 2021 Ledgestone with a sixth place finish. Luckily, her top ten finish streak, which has been running since 2021 DGLO, is still intact. Valerie finished one spot ahead of her sister, Alexis, who nabbed her second straight top 10 finish of the season.
– What was up with the putting this weekend? Grabby baskets? Easy greens? Good players? Increase focus because it was a major? There were 12 FPO players who putted at 80% or better from Circle 1, and 48 players in MPO who hit 90% or better. At the last Elite Series stop, Texas States, only 11 MPO players hit upwards of 90% from C1, and only 3 FPO players eclipsed 80%.