An in-depth look at how Paul McBeth's record-setting round at DeLaveaga deviated from his already excellent history there
June 8, 2017 by Alex Colucci in Analysis with 0 comments
It sounds like the setup to a cheesy Chuck Norris joke, but when it comes to the Masters Cup, one thing is certain: Paul McBeth doesn’t get DeLa’d. Instead, DeLa gets Paul McBeth’d.
This year’s Masters Cup — the 32nd iteration of the event at one of the game’s most famous courses, the DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course in Santa Cruz, California — was no exception. McBeth ran away with a 10-shot win at the PDGA National Tour event, thanks in large part to a remarkable achievement: an 1104- rated first round.
The 15-under par round set the course record in terms of strokes to par and was well ahead of the previous top-rated Masters Cup performance, a 1085 round McBeth tossed in 2012 when the tournament played a 27-hole layout at DeLa. The Masters Cup switched to a 24-hole layout in 2013, and that was also the first year that hole-by-hole video footage of the event was produced.
Since 2013, the four-time PDGA World Champion has won five Masters Cups, and multiple filmed rounds of him playing DeLa exist from each year. As a result, one can look back at a significant sample of McBeth’s career performances to truly absorb how dominant he is there. With this extensive collection of video, and the incredible 1104-rated round, a thought came mind: How does McBeth attack DeLaveaga? Specifically, how has he played it each year since 2013, and what elevated his first round this year to near mythical status?
Consistency in Shot Selection and Disc Choice
There are 11 McBeth rounds on film playing the DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course,1 and five “data points” can easily be collected from watching recorded round footage. The first two are relatively simple: the score he got on each hole (verified by cross checking the video with live scoring), and the type of throw from the tee he utilized on each hole (backhand, forehand, overhand, roller, etc.). First, let’s look at how he played each hole from the tee.
Immediately, McBeth’s year-to-year consistency in terms of his shot selection from the box stands out. Unsurprisingly, he chooses backhand drives the majority of the time: Since 2016 he has done so off the tee on each of the first 23 holes, opting for a forehand from the final hole, the so-called “Top of the World” hole on 27.2 Prior to 2016, he only deviated from that pattern to throw a forehand roller on hole 4 each year; a forehand drive on hole 10 in 2014; and overhand thumbers on hole 2 in 2013.3
The next two data points exist thanks to the tireless efforts of video producers who take the time to include this information either in their commentary or on screen: the classification of disc used and the disc name. The general patterns here show the consistency with which McBeth approaches each Masters Cup. With very few exceptions, he chooses the same disc for a given hole during each round in a given year, and often repeating his disc choice in terms of classification (driver, midrange etc.) and mold year to year.
|Round 2 - 5/20/17||*d||*d||r3||r3||*d||r3||tb3||r3||nva||r3||r3||tb3||r3||*d||*d||r3||th||av3||r3||r3||*d||r3||r3||*d|
|Round 1 - 5/19/17||r3||*d||r3||tb3||r3||r3||tb3||r3||*d||r3||th||av3||r3||r3||*d||r3||r3||*d|
|Round 2 - 5/21/16||th||th||r3||r3||*d||nva||tb3||r3||r3||mk3||mk3||tb3||r3||*d||th||r3||th||p2||mk3||r3||*d||tb||tb3||*d|
|Round 1 - 5/20/16||th||th||r3||r3||*d||nva||tb3||r3||p2||mk3||mk3||tb3||r3||*d||th||r3||th||p2||mk3||r3||*d||tb||tb3||*d|
|Round 3 - 5/17/15||*d||*d||r3||kr||*d||r3||r3||r3||r3||r3||r3||tb||r3||*d||th||r3||tb||r3||r3||r3||*d||tb||tb||*d|
|Round 2 - 5/16/15||*d||*d||r3||kr||*d||r3||tb||r3||r3||r3||r3||tb||r3||*d||th||r3||tb||r3||r3||r3||*d||tb||tb||*d|
|Round 1 - 5/15/15||*d||*d||r3||kr||*d||r3||tb||r3||r3||r3||r3||tb||r3||*d||th||r3||tb||r3||r3||r3||*d||tb||tb||*d|
|Round 3 - 5/18/14||*d||*d||r3||kr||*d||r3||r3||r3||r3||r3||*d||kr||r3||*d||pd||r3||pd||p2||r3||r3||*d||tb||r3||*d|
|Round 1 - 5/16/14||*d||*d||r3||kr||*d||r3||r3||r3||r3||r3||*d||kr||r3||*d||pd||r3||pd||p2||r3||r3||*d||tb||r3||*d|
|Round 3 - 4/28/13||*d||max||r3||*d||kr||r3||r3||r3||av||r3||r3||r3||kcr||*d||kr||r3||pd||p2||r||r3||*d||tb||roc3||max|
|Round 2 - 4/27/13||*d||max||r3||*d||kr||r3||r3||r3||av||r3||r3||r3||kcr||*d||kr||r3||pd||p2||r3||r3||*d||tb||r3||max|
Qualitatively speaking, his shot selection is also consistent year to year, choosing to play, for example, the same type of hyzer or turnover shots on a given hole round after round. The table below shows the mold of disc used from the tee on each hole during his 11-filmed rounds.4
PADing His Scores
Now that we have a sense of how McBeth chooses to play DeLaveaga, let’s look at three more data points that can perhaps help us explore what set his 1104 rated round apart.
The first two data points are how McBeth scored on each hole and his birdie percentages for each round. From there, we can observe a statistic created after watching through each of the 11 filmed rounds called “putting after drive,” or PAD.
PAD is roughly similar to the commonly used greens in regulation statistic, and, simply put, assesses the relative quality of one’s tee shot at DeLa where each of the 24 holes is considered to have a par of 3.5
In addition to giving a benchmark for the quality of a player’s drive in putting them in position for the lowest possible score on each hole, PAD also measures the ability, willingness, and confidence of a player to go for a putt despite obstacles around the basket. This is all the more prescient at DeLa, which features arguably some of the most mentally and physically challenging terrain seen on the professional circuit.6
Simply put, PAD measures a player’s ability to put themselves in position to score and their capacity to take advantage of that position. Birdie percentage, then, measures the result of that capacity: Did they actually follow through and make the most of their position on the course by converting their tee shots into birdies, and thus scoring lower?
First, let’s take a look at how McBeth did in terms of total birdies, birdie percentage, PAD total and PAD percentage on each of the 24 holes at the Masters Cup over each of the 11 filmed rounds combined.
|Birdie% Per Hole||27||18||64||0||91||45||9||73||82||36||73||27||45||0||18||55||36||91||36||18||45||27||64||45|
|PAD% Per Hole||45||45||91||9||100||82||36||91||91||82||91||73||82||0||55||73||73||91||45||64||82||73||82||73|
This table gives us a good sense of which holes McBeth regularly has opportunities to score well on after quality tee shots, and how often he converts on those scoring opportunities. The higher the PAD percentage is, combined with the lower difference between PAD percentage and birdie percentage, the better the hole plays in terms of producing potential scoring opportunities for McBeth.
Now, let’s look at McBeth’s PAD and birdie percentages and what percent of his PADs he was actually able to convert into birdies through each of his 11 rounds on film:
|Year & Round||PAD||# of Holes||PAD%||Birdie%||% of PADs to Birdies||Round Ratings|
|Round 2 - 5/20/17||17||24||70.8||45.8||64.7||1072|
|Round 1 - 5/19/17||18||24||75.0||70.8||94.4||1104|
|Round 2 - 5/21/16||17||24||70.8||45.8||64.7||1072|
|Round 1 - 5/20/16||19||24||79.2||37.5||47.4||1051|
|Round 3 - 5/17/15||18||24||75.0||45.8||61.1||1069|
|Round 2 - 5/16/15||14||24||58.3||33.3||57.1||1035|
|Round 1 - 5/15/15||15||24||62.5||45.8||73.3||1062|
|Round 3 - 5/18/14||12||24||50.0||29.2||58.3||1030|
|Round 1 - 5/16/14||16||24||66.7||41.7||62.5||1043|
|Round 3 - 4/28/13||16||24||66.7||37.5||56.3||1064|
|Round 2 - 4/27/13||17||24||70.8||37.5||52.9||1037|
|Totals & Averages||179||264||67.8||42.8||63.1||1058.1|
A few things stand out. Over the past two Masters Cups, McBeth has averaged a putt on his second shot on 74 percent of holes he’s played during the four rounds, with none of his PAD percentages going below 70 percent. That is just above his total PAD average for all 11 of his filmed rounds, which is 67.8 percent.
That 67.8 percent PAD average is quite a bit higher than both Ricky Wysocki and Nate Doss’ PAD averages over the same time span since 2013. Across four filmed rounds, Wysocki’s average is at 60.4 percent and Doss’ is at 50.6 percent over seven filmed rounds.
Now, about McBeth’s 1104-rated round and how it compares to his other efforts at DeLaveaga: His PAD percentage during the round, 75 percent, doesn’t stand out compared to his other rounds from 2016 and 2017, but his birdie percentage certainly does. At 70.8 percent, his birdie percentage outpaces his next closest effort considerably. Even more telling is the percent of PADs McBeth converted into birdies. During the 1104-rated round, McBeth made birdie on 94.4 percent of the holes where he was putting on his second shot.
Removing that round from the 11 filmed rounds we’re working with, and averaging the same total for the remaining 10, and McBeth turned his PADs into birdies 59.8 percent of the time. His 1104 round was an improvement of 34.6 percentage points over his average birdie conversion rate.
It appears that confident putting after precisely placed drives, despite the many pitfalls of DeLaveaga, is what made the difference. But don’t just take our word for it — recall McBeth’s statements after the round:
“It was a mixture of everything going well … Then I had two 4s in there, so it’s not like I played the whole round great. I had some shakes early in the round, but other than that pretty smooth. Drive, putt, drive, putt … And then on top of that, putting confidence … With the cliffs behind [the baskets] or the drop offs behind them, it’s such a course that you need a lot of confidence on.”
While his quotes are illustrative, and the statistics that back them up are most impressive, taking a finer look at some specific holes at DeLaveaga and McBeth’s results on them offer insight into where on the course he was able to capitalize to get to 1104 that he wasn’t able to in his other rounds there.
First, let’s address those two 4s he had, on 4 and 13 — holes that rightfully can be considered par 4s based on how they play, even though they remain classified as par 3s. These holes are routinely two of the hardest to birdie on the course for any player; indeed, McBeth has never carded a two on either one in any of the 11 filmed rounds we’ve looked at, and he’s only ever had a putt on his second shot once through the 11 rounds, in 2016 on hole 4. In terms of scoring, these two are the toughest on the course, and a 4 on either doesn’t lose strokes to many in the field.
During his 1104-rated round he carded birdies on nine holes where his birdie percentage over these 11 rounds is below 50 percent, which is nearly half of the course. Three of these holes in particular stand out given their exceptionally challenging tee shots: holes 11, 14 and 19.
Hole 11 is a 369-foot tunnel shot where McBeth sports a total birdie percentage of 27.3 percent. Before 2017 he had only birdied this one once before, in 2013.
On holes 14 and 19 McBeth has a birdie percentage of just 18.2, which – not counting holes 4 and 13 — is tied for his lowest percentage at DeLaveaga along with hole 2. He only carded birdies on these two holes on film twice prior to 2017’s first round.
Perhaps his most impressive feat of the 1104-rated round was even getting a clean look to putt at hole 14’s basket. The 363-foot holes plays uphill and hard left through a tight gap to a fairway and green littered with oak trees. It is perhaps the most claustrophobic approach or putt on the course. McBeth last birdied it during round one in 2015, so this isn’t a hole anyone counts on for a 2, but it’s most definitely a stroke on the field anytime you do.
Hole 19, while not as daunting, is still one of the strangest and narrowest in disc golf, with an OB road left and a cliff to the right. It points to the fact that McBeth’s precision accuracy was in full gear.
Getting opportunities to score on some of a course’s most challenging holes and having the ability to capitalize on those chances repeatedly is what can take a round beyond 1100. With the PDGA National Tour heading to Oregon for the Beaver State Fling, we’ll see if McBeth has another National Tour day where everything clicks.
Because of the partial coverage of his first round this year, we don’t know exactly how he chose to play holes 1, 2, 4, 8-a, 10 and 13, but it is safe to assume he took the same approach as he did in 2016 and during the second round in 2017. ↩
Holes 4 and 13 could rightfully be considered par 4s, but for the purposes of this exercise we’ll keep everything at 3. ↩
A few final caveats: First, PAD doesn’t actually take into account whether the putt after a player’s drive is for 2. For instance, after a 2-meter penalty or out-of-bounds stroke, a player may still be running the basket, even though it would be for 3. This still counts as an instance where, even with the penalty stroke, they have put themselves in position to, and are willing to attempt to, achieve the lowest score possible. Second, it is often quite clear whether a player is “running a putt,” “just laying up,” or approaching the basket at DeLaveaga, given the challenging terrain. ↩