Title Forecast: Looking At Past USDGC Finishes To Predict A Winner

One player fits the criteria of recent winners almost to perfection. It's probably not who you expect.

Hole 6 at the 2018 USDGC. Photo: USDGC

It is common practice to look at an upcoming event and pick a winner based either on who’s finished well recently or has a history of doing so. At a course like Winthrop Gold where course knowledge and experience is so imperative, looking directly at success in Rock Hill alone is more critical here than most individual tournaments.

There are three players rated 1050 or higher for the first time in the history of the United States Disc Golf Championship. With the USDGC, it is always more difficult than just looking at the top-rated players and writing them in chalk for your predictions. When looking at the history of winners at the USDGC there are a few predictable traits to help determine how they got to the top podium spot. The first set of data points don’t fare well for 2019 winner James Conrad as a back-to-back champion. 

  • There have been 20 years of USDGC events and only twice has there been a consecutive winner. The first was Ken Climo at the first two USDGC events in 1999 and 2000, the other was Will Schusterick in 2010 and 2012. The 2011 event attempted to use handicaps and has since been rebranded as USDGC Performance Flight.
  • There have only been four repeat winners, period. Ken Climo and Barry Schultz won eight of the first nine USDGC events. Since 2007, only Will Schusterick and Paul McBeth have been repeat champions.

The odds-on favorite in 2020 would be McBeth. It makes sense that a two-time champion of this event and the best player in the world would have the best chance at winning. McBeth injured his ankle in round 1 last year, and that showing should hold no weight in evaluating this year’s event. Both times McBeth won at USDGC he was on a stretch of great performances. In the three previous events in 2015 he finished second or better; this is true for 2018 as well. His current last three events were a second place finish in Jonesboro, a win at the MVP Open, and a second place finish at the Green Mountain Championship. 

If you are looking to get better odds or just go contrarian, there are a few data points that go slightly against McBeth and may help us determine who will be the next champion.

  • The winners averaged to be the sixth highest-rated player at the event.
  • Only seven times has the top-rated player won the USDGC. Four of these were in the first five years. In total, Climo won four times as the top-rated player, and both of McBeth’s wins came as the top-rated player at the event.
  • Over more than 20 events, the winner’s average finish from the year before is eighth place. Over the last eight years, the average finish the year prior to winning is seventh place. 
  • The average rating for winners of the event is 1034. 

The data shows that more often than not, you can look at the year prior and see someone from the top eight win the next year. This will be hard to put much weight on due to Wysocki not being at the event in 2019, and McBeth not being healthy.

If this forecast does hold, Eagle McMahon finishing seventh a year ago bodes well for his chances to be crowned champion this coming Saturday. McMahon has never won at Winthrop and has finished top seven in three of the last four years. 

Ricky Wysocki is the third-highest rated player in the field at 1050. He did not play last year due to his Lyme disease diagnosis, so he would not only be getting his first win at the USDGC, he would be the first player to ever win the event having not played the year before. Historically, he has finished well at Winthrop. Over the previous four years from 2015 to 2018, his average finish is third place, with fifth being his worst finish since 2014. These numbers don’t make him a lock to win but definitely make a case that he will finish on the podium. Wysocki, being as great as he is despite never having won the event with the “home course” advantage, says as much about his chances to win as any historical data.

As far as your podium bets:

  • Never in the 20 year history of the USDGC have the top three rated players at the event finished as the top 3 three players in any fashion…that’s box or straight. 
  • Only three times ever have the top two rated players finished first and second. And it’s been just once in the last 15 events (2015: McBeth and Wysocki; Climo and Schultz in 2002 & 2003).

With this large of a sample size, it would be unprecedented to see McBeth, McMahon, and Wysocki finish as the top three, or even for McBeth and McMahon to finish first and second come Saturday. Every year, we see at least one dark horse player finish in the top three, and sometimes even win the whole thing.

The data above makes my dark horse pick to watch Adam Hammes. He is a deadlock on most of the criteria. He finished in 10th place a year ago, which is right near that top eight average. He is currently 1035-rated — remember the average all-time winner rating is 1034. He is the eighth highest rated player at the event, and the average for winners is right around the sixth highest rated player.

No extra pressure, Mr. Hammes, you are only about to play the most important tournament of the season, but you fit the bill perfectly to pay off on these long odds. He is the perfect choice for any picks pool. If he wins it all, remember where you heard it first. 

Staff Picks: 2020 USDGC

  1. Darren LeMay
    Darren LeMay

    Darren LeMay is a contributor at Ultiworld Disc Golf, practicing disc golfer and volunteer soccer dad. When not working as a finance auditor he attends girls youth soccer practices and tournaments all over the Orlando area literally five or six days a week leaving just enough time to never play disc golf. He loves playing disc golf.

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