Sexton, Jones And Their Different Approaches At Ledgestone

Jones in esteemed company with strategy at Eureka Lake

kevin jones nate sexton
Sexton and Jones at the 2018 Ledgestone Insurance Open. Original Photos by Alyssa Van Lanen – DGPT

The Ledgestone Insurance Open did not disappoint. It had an exciting and excruciating ending (just check out the post-production footage from Central Coast Disc Golf), along with amazing shots, and a variety of strategies executed by the large and diverse field of players. Two of them, the winner of the event, Nate Sexton, and Kevin Jones, who finished in fifth place, exemplify what we could consider two extremes of possible strategies. Jones played aggressively, with only an 18-percent par rate and an incredible 60-percent birdie rate. Sexton, played extremely smart golf, winning, in part, as a result of carding only four bogeys, with none coming in the final round.

But all that information you can get by looking at the player pages on UDisc Live. Let’s use all that information and the power of some analysis to provide more in-depth comparisons. Below is a plot showing the percent difference from the average Open player (for all tournaments on UDisc Live) for Sexton and Jones.

Percent difference from average player for Sexton (blue bars) and Jones (red bars) at 2018 Ledgestone Open. The average Open player is calculated using data from all tournaments available on UDisc Live. Image: Aaron Howard

Several things stand out for Sexton. He hit a ton of fairways (40-percent above average) to go along with his unbelievably high scramble rate and low OB rate. All of this points to Sexton’s smart, not conservative play. I say not conservative, because he still had a birdie rate of 44-percent, but he rarely made mistakes, and when he did, he was able to save par at an 85-percent rate.

For Jones, he parked many holes, hit a lot of greens, made perhaps an unsustainable proportion of his Circle 2 putts, and went out of bounds at a high rate. Suffice it to say, he approached the course quite a bit differently than Sexton’s, with perhaps a strategy focused on attacking each hole. This, opposed to Sexton’s strategy, which appeared to be a combination of selectivity and letting scoring opportunities come to him, and where he appears to plan out where to attempt scoring under par, and where to play for par. The stats indicate Jones was singularly focused on scoring at every opportunity; he clearly went for a lot of shots and hit many of them (let’s not forget he finished fifth!), but also missed many of them along the way.

Does this pattern sound familiar to you? It should because it is very similar to Paul McBeth’s from the 2017 Ledgestone. Remember, he also played very aggressively, scored a lot, and finished well (second behind Josh Anthon). In fact, McBeth’s 2017 tournament at the Eureka Lake course is so similar to Jones’s 2018 it ranks second in similarity score among all of the 2,895 player tournaments available on UDisc Live.1 Here is a list of the top-10 similarity scores. Remember, a lower similarity score is better.

NamePlaceEvent Abv.YearSimilarity ScoreFairway HitsParkedCircle 1 Reg.Circle 2 Reg.ScrambleCircle 1 PuttsCircle 2 PuttsOB Rate
Kevin Jones5LIO201807815546536943618.1
Anthony Barela22LVC20180.97817537533942719.4
Paul McBeth2LIO201727411516352963325
Gregg Barsby23Memorial20182.27517467255913215.3
Drew Gibson20LIO20182.48115456848882723.9
Jon Perry51WACO20182.5859486929892813
Matthew Orum30Memorial20172.87622477143892913.9
Ricky Wysocki4LIO20172.88321466950902916.7
Isaac Robinson35LIO20172.8791143614888300.222
Gregg Barsby13LIO20182.9801346685291210.167
Paul Oman63Memorial20183761442743789210.194

In sum, Sexton and Jones played very different golf at Ledgestone last weekend. Both played well, but Sexton executed his plan “to a T W” by balancing his aggression (44-percent birdie rate) with his smart play and an eye toward minimizing risks (0.042 OB rate), while Jones was probably a bit too daring with his performance (0.181 OB rate). Both types of golf have their own merits and detractive characteristics, but both are fun to watch. Sexton and McBeth have each displayed how these different styles can lead to wins on the sport’s biggest stage—it’s only a matter of time until Jones get there himself.

  1. Look back at this article for a review of my similarity score method. 

  1. Aaron Howard
    Aaron Howard

    Aaron Howard is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Franklin & Marshall College. He loves to play disc golf and to think about things he loves quantitatively. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Instagram.

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