A new King.
July 5, 2022 by Justin Westfall in Analysis with 0 comments
For the first time since the 2019 United States Women’s Disc Golf Championships, a new Major champion has been crowned: Hailey King became the 26th FPO player to win a Major championship on Sunday in her home state of Wisconsin. After a recent trend of wire-to-wire victories on the Disc Golf Pro Tour, the 2022 USWDGC featured a wire-to-wire lead card with King, Eveliina Salonen, Ohn Scoggins, and Maria Oliva playing together in each of the final three rounds. As expected, this was a putter’s tournament with the top 4 players in strokes gained putting all finishing inside the top 4, and the top 5 players in strokes gained tee to green all losing strokes to the field on the greens.
Until this past weekend, Hailey King was having a very pedestrian season, coming off consecutive outside top-20 finishes for the first time since 2019 and was beginning to lose any sense of relevance. King came out on Thursday and shot the highest rated round of her season, only to eclipse that mark in round three with a 1006-rated effort. Averaging the 4th highest event rating of her career, Hailey took just four bogeys on the weekend, three of which came in the final round. With Paige Pierce’s dominant win last year, it’s easy to forget that King was the runner-up, when she started the final round just one stroke back of Pierce. This year it was Hailey who sat in the driver’s seat on the final day with a two stroke lead, and she did just enough to hold off the field. She now joins Pierce, Catrina Allen, and Sarah Hokom as the only FPO players to have a DGPT Elite Series win, an NT win, a DGPT championship, and a Major championship to their names.
Valerie nearly leapfrogged the entire lead card of Innova athletes on championship Sunday to take this title for herself. Leading the tournament in birdies, she ultimately made one too many mistakes to tie King and force a playoff despite an incredible effort. Per Statmando, the seven consecutive birdies that Valerie carded in the final round was the longest birdie streak in ES or Majors this season for both the FPO and MPO divisions. Hailey King had carded six in a row multiple times this season, including the opening round of this event. Finishing 2nd in Circle 2 putting at 35% and 4th in strokes gained putting, Valerie landed her first major podium in just her 4th attempt. The 1005-rated round she recorded Sunday is already her 4th 1000+ rated round of the season.
The Masters World champion nearly became the third player to win an FPO Major after winning an age-protected one, finishing 2nd in strokes gained putting and leading the event in C2 putting, making 10-of-23. Unfortunately for Ohn, she went 0-of-4 from C2 in the final round and had eight C1X misses during the week, including a few that are normally gimmies for her. Scoggins has now finished inside the top 5 at both Majors this season and earned her first podium finish at an FPO major. Had Ohn opted for the age protected division, she would have won the event by 14 strokes.
Cat was getting off the box very well in Madison, finishing 2nd in fairway hits, 2nd in C2 in regulation, and 3rd in C1 in regulation. The putter just wasn’t good enough to make a run for the top, coming in 22nd-best in strokes gained putting. Now with 31 FPO Majors under her belt, Allen has still never finished worse than 6th at the game’s most prestigious tournaments.
Through two and a half rounds, Oliva was in full control of this event and looking unstoppable. Maria was continually throwing her drives chain high, going long of the basket, and sinking comeback putts for birdie. While she ranks 48th in C1X putting this season and 14th in C2 putting, Oliva led the field in strokes gained putting and only had a single C1X miss in the opening two rounds. She played the first 48 holes of the tournament bogey free, until carding two double bogeys in a four hole stretch where she missed the fairway on four consecutive drives. Unfortunately for Maria, that became a trend for her at Elver Park, where she missed 17-of-36 fairways, forcing her out of the lead and just off the podium. The 4th place finish is nevertheless a huge accomplishment for the young player, significantly improving on her previous best finish of 18th at a Major championship.
It’s no surprise that Eveliina led the event in strokes gained tee to green, finishing first in fairway hits and both C1 and C2 in regulation. What was surprising is how good Salonen’s putting was in the opening three rounds, missing just 6 total from inside the circle. However, that quickly fell apart on Sunday when she missed 14 C1 putts and finished the round 1-over par. Perhaps the volume of C1X putts began to stack too high for her confidence. Eveliina only needed to take 19 C1X putts in the opening two rounds, as opposed to 41 in the final two rounds.
In just her 2nd FPO major, the reigning 15-and-under World champion averaged 43 points above her rating and took home a 7th place finish. Aria shot the highest rated round of her career to start the tournament, and then surpassed it once again with a 995-rated final round. If not for an unfortunate triple bogey during the second round, the youngster would have been knocking on the door of a podium finish.
After sitting out the Preserve championship due to back pain, Henna admitted she was still not feeling 100% but managed to throw the disc exceptionally well in Madison. Finishing 4th in strokes gained tee to green, she had the 2nd best C1 in regulation behind her friend Eveliina Salonen. But in similar fashion, she lost strokes to the field on the putting green, coming in just 53rd in strokes gained. The 7th place finish, however, ties her second best placement of the season in the United States.
The Washington native doesn’t typically venture outside of the Pacific Northwest unless she’s playing a big event, but Sai always seems to pop up on live coverage whenever she gets an opportunity. Ananda played incredibly clean this weekend, shooting bogey free on the first 66 holes of that tournament, the longest stretch in ES and Majors for both the MPO and FPO divisions this season. She came in 15th in strokes gained putting and 16th in strokes gained tee to green. The 8th place finish is not only her best at a Major championship, it now marks three straight top 10s dating back to the 2021 USWDGC.
The two-time USWDGC champion was leading the field in strokes gained tee to green for much of the week before eventually finishing 3rd best. Shorter, more technical courses set up a great opportunity for a player like Hokom to take home another major title. But a very poor putting performance landed Sarah her worst Major finish since the 2014 season.
Playing in her first ever Major championship and just her second U.S. tournament after debuting at the Preserve last week, the 32-year-old Estonian once again averaged well above her player rating and proved she has plenty of skill to compete at this level. With a backhand that looks like a carbon copy of her teammate Kristin Tattar, Kaidi parked the 2nd most holes during the week and finished 11th in strokes gained putting. Allsalu once again shot the highest rated round of her career with a 996 on Saturday, and if not for an unfortunate triple bogey late on Sunday, she would have cracked the top 10 at this event.
The 16-time Major champion was wearing multiple hats in Madison, taking over the Jomez coverage with Kona Panis on top of trying to win a record 17th FPO major. Not only did Pierce come up short, she had the worst FPO finish of her career as she came in 21st place. Prior to this event, Paige had never finished worse than 13th place in 295 FPO events. Her game was mediocre across the board, coming in 23rd in strokes gained tee to green and 25th in strokes gained putting, making just 2-of-24 C2 putts.