Aggressive play doesn’t pay off for contenders with Championship Saturday on tap
August 13, 2016 by Steve Hill in Recap with 0 comments
EMPORIA, Kan. – Paul McBeth and Nikko Locastro came out swinging during round four of the PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships on Friday, pushing the limits of the Emporia Country Club’s out-of-bounds lines with aggressive routes and powerful distance. But for every risk they took, there was little reward to be had, as Ricky Wysocki – despite showing a few chinks in his armor for the first time this tournament – continued his consistent play and still holds a substantial lead over the field.
Wysocki’s 7-under par 56 – although it was his highest scoring performance of the week – brought him to a 46-under par 202 after 72 holes of golf. Locastro managed to chip one shot off his deficit and remains in second place after firing off an 8-under par 55 for the day, while McBeth mirrored Wysocki’s score – but not the path to it – and sits at a 37-under par 211 overall, nine back of the lead.
Wysocki made a couple uncharacteristic mistakes early in the round, tossing his upshot out of bounds as he approached on Hole 3 and recording a rare in-the-circle miss as he putted for birdie on Hole 4 to start the round at even par.
“I didn’t have it,” said Wysocki. “I didn’t execute my game plan today. That’s where I faltered a little bit, but I still managed to stay in there and I’m happy with where I’m at still.”
McBeth, meanwhile, started off strong by carding a birdie after a massive hyzer drive on Hole 1. He then went out-of-bounds off the tee on Hole 2 before finishing the hole with a bogey, then followed it up by going OB twice on Hole 3 to card a double bogey 6. With Wysocki’s slip-ups, though, McBeth only managed to lose one stroke off the lead through five holes.
“I just kept throwing out-of-bounds, and every time I threw out-of-bounds it was a bogey or a double bogey, so that kind of shot me in the foot there,” McBeth said. “There are 27 more holes, and I basically have to birdie all of them if I want to win this.”
Locastro’s start was cleaner than McBeth’s, but the former was snake-bitten by bad luck. After smashing a drive on the 549-foot second hole to have a look for eagle, his bid caught an edge and rolled near the OB line. He was safely in bounds, but then missed his comeback putt low and had to settle for par.
After taking a moment to crouch near the adjacent pond to cool off, Locastro recovered over the next few holes, going on a three-birdie run that was capped by draining a 60-foot putt on Hole 5. The card took pars on Hole 6, then moved to Hole 7, a 386-foot open drive with OB to the left that saw Wysocki skip and bounce off the pin in the prior round for a tap-in birdie.
He was less fortunate during round four, as his birdie putt from 20 feet was harshly rejected by the chains, spitting straight back out after a clean strike to the center post. He settled for par, while Locastro’s birdie saw him whittle the margin down to five strokes.
“The front nine I didn’t have too much momentum because of the out-of-bounds, and the spit-out didn’t really help at all,” Wysocki said. “I thought I had the birdie and it just fell out, but I just punched through and fought through it. That’s all that really matters. It’s still a long tournament. I knew there was still a lot of the round left to play, so I just had to make a comeback.”
He started that comeback by birdieing three of the next four holes, while Locastro only carded one birdie in the same stretch from Hole 8 to 11. McBeth also birdied three of four in that sequence, but went OB yet again on Hole 9 – his fourth shot outside the lines on the day – to add another double bogey to his scorecard. By the time the group started Hole 12, Wysocki’s lead was back to seven over Locastro and 11 over McBeth.
Already displaying aggressive play through the front half, McBeth said that he committed to the push even more on the back half despite the fact that it had yet to pay off.
“When I got to the back, I was just – it’s all or nothing,” McBeth said. “There was a point where I said, ‘I need to birdie everything here if I want to have a chance.’”
He came close, carding seven birdies on the course’s second nine. But nearly every time McBeth seemed poised to take a stroke off the lead, Wysocki answered with a birdie of his own. As a result, McBeth only gained two strokes on Wysocki to end the day.
Locastro, meanwhile, continued to assault the Emporia Country Club fairways with long flexing drives and devastating hyzer bombs. And even as he put on a show, he too could not capitalize on any opportunities to close the gap on Wysocki, because those opportunities simply didn’t exist as Wysocki – save an out-of-bounds tee shot on Hole 17 – dialed in his consistency and refused to give anything away.
As play heads back to Jones East for a Championship Saturday semifinal round before a Final 9 at the Country Club, Wysocki said the large lead he had built would provide him some insurance.
“My main score that I want to shoot [at Jones East] is between 48 and 50, and [McBeth and Locastro] are going to have to shoot a course record to gain one or two strokes and I’ll still have five or six strokes coming into the finals,” Wysocki said. “Even if I suffer two or three strokes it’s not the end of the world for me. Four or five strokes going into the finals is the perfect position for me.”
McBeth – who knows a thing or two about erasing deficits over a short period of play – was not ready to count himself out as he seeks his fifth consecutive world championship.
“I’m not quitting,” McBeth said. “There’s 27 holes, and realistically I think out of those 27 [Wysocki] will get nine pars, so I have to birdie them all and get a few eagles. So realistically, yeah, I think I still have a shot.”
Locastro also repeated a confident mantra after the round.
“I see myself making shots and holding the trophy at the end,” he said.
Wysocki, though, was ready to adjust – if required – in order to secure the title.
“I’ve got one and a half rounds left,” Wysocki said. “I think I can put together a solid round tomorrow – and that’s all that matters, is having a solid round tomorrow – and then into the finals is when I’ll change my game plan up if I have to.”
The semifinal round at Jones East begins at 8 a.m., with the Final 9 taking place at the Emporia Country Club at 3 p.m.