2023 PDGA Pro Worlds Preview: Back at Smuggs

The biggest tournament of the season has arrived.

2023 PDGA Pro Worlds. Photo: DGPT.

The PDGA Pro World Championships, the third and most prestigious major of the season, begins this Wednesday at the Smugglers’ Notch resort in Burlington, Vermont. Originally designed by Disc Golf Pro Tour CEO Jeff Spring, “Smuggs” typically plays host to the Green Mountain Championship as the penultimate or final event of the DGPT season before the Tour Championship. This is the first year that Elite Series and Major events cannot share the same venue, so the GMC will return to the tour next year.

Choosing when to play conservatively is a necessary skill in all sports, especially golf. Equally as important this week will be knowing when to play aggressively and, with five rounds of play, understanding that there will be time to overcome early mistakes. Major championships, and none more so than Worlds, are where legacies are built. Pros and aspiring amateurs dream of someday joining the exclusive club, while past winners continue their daily grinds, in hopes to capture the sport’s most prestigious title: World Champion.

Last year, 14 months removed from James Conrad’s “Holy Shot” that denied him a victory, Paul McBeth was finally able to capture his 6th career world title. McBeth entered the final round three strokes off Aaron Gossage’s pace and played some head games by switching up his game plan on several holes to match what Gossage had been doing in the prior rounds. Going into hole 17, McBeth and Gossage were deadlocked, when McBeth’s tee shot failed to clear the low ceiling and fell into the fairway well back of ideal position. He proceeded to throw a brilliant 500 foot shot over OB to land within 70 feet of the basket before sinking the putt to go up a stroke. Gossage tied McBeth with a birdie on hole 18, but he threw his first playoff tee shot in the water, allowing Paul to lay up for the win.

Meanwhile in FPO, Kristin Tattar was playing excellent disc golf but found herself tied with Henna Blomroos for the lead after three rounds. Tattar then shot 21-under par in the final 36 holes, averaging a 1030 rating, to win her first World Championship by a comfortable eight strokes.

Past Winners

YearOpenOpen Women
2022Paul McBethKristin Tattar
2021James ConradCatrina Allen
2019Paul McBethPaige Pierce
2018Gregg BarsbyPaige Bjerkaas (Shue)
2017Ricky WysockiPaige Pierce
2016Ricky WysockiValarie Jenkins
2015Paul McBethPaige Pierce
2014Paul McBethCatrina Allen
2013Paul McBethPaige Pierce
2012Paul McBethSarah Hokom
2011Nate DossPaige Pierce
2010Eric McCabeSarah Stanhope
2009Avery JenkinsValarie Jenkins
2008Dave FeldbergValarie Jenkins
2007Nate DossValarie Jenkins
2006Ken ClimoDes Reading
2005Nate DossDes Reading
2004Barry SchultzBirgitta Lagerholm

Six Things We’ll Be Watching

1. Reigning and 6-time World Champion Paul McBeth will be competing in his first event since dropping from the European Open last month due to an injury in his throwing shoulder. McBeth posted on his Instagram last week saying that he is not at 100% yet but will be ready to compete come Wednesday. A win this week would give McBeth his 18th MPO major title, tying Ken Climo for the most in PDGA history.

While McBeth will likely never match Climo’s 12 world titles, surpassing him in total major wins feels like just a matter of time. Paul has only won the Green Mountain Championship once, back in 2019, one year after finishing 2nd to Gregg Barsby in the 2018 World Championship on these same courses. Aside from 2017 when he had to drop out of GMC, McBeth has never finished worse than 5th at Smugglers’ Notch.

Remarkably, McBeth has finished 1st or 2nd at the World Championship every year since his first win in 2012 and has an average event rating of 1057 over that span. Still, this has likely been the quietest season of McBeth’s professional career. The same was true last season, but even with a new backhand form implemented the week of the event and coming into the final day at a deficit, he still pulled it off. When it comes to Worlds, McBeth simply plays at a different level.

2. If there was ever a time for Ricky Wysocki to claim his 3rd career world title, it’s now. Wysocki has won the GMC five times, including last season, and has podium finishes in eight of his nine starts. His worst finish at Smuggs came at the 2018 World Championship: Ricky finished 9th in his three-peat world title attempt. Since his win at the Preserve in June, Ricky has not missed the top 10 but also hasn’t looked like the best version of himself. He has also failed to finish inside the top 5 at four consecutive major championships. Historically, Wysocki has been excellent at both Brewster Ridge and Fox Run, so with five total rounds, he should absolutely be in the mix come Sunday.

3. Reigning World Champion Kristin Tattar returns to the U.S. this week for the first time in nearly two months. Tattar is coming off consecutive wins at the PCS Open, European Open, and European Championship. Kristin was also last year’s GMC champion; she averaged a fantastic 1007 rating and won by seven strokes. Of course, the big story of her European Championship win was a career-high 1054 rated second round that helped propel her to a 16 stroke lead, which was nearly squandered in the final round. With her lowest rated round (892) since 2019 and athletic tape on her arm, many speculated that Tattar had re-injured the elbow that was surgically repaired in the offseason.

Her comments since then seem to indicate the issue was more mental and execution based, nearly succumbing to the pressure of winning the last event on her “wish list.” With the final tournament on that list now checked off, the Estonian may be able to play a bit more freely in an attempt to claim her 2nd straight world title.

4. Coming off her first career Elite Series win at DGLO, Ohn Scoggins has an opportunity to claim both the FP40 and FPO world titles. Surprisingly, this is not unprecedented. In 1995, Beth Tanner won the Masters World Championship and then went on to win the 1996 FPO World Championship. At 42 years old, Scoggins is playing some of the best disc golf of her life and just proved that she is capable of winning on longer open courses.

Coupled with the fact that Brewster Ridge is now shorter and far more scorable for the FPO division, Ohn feels like a lock to at least make the podium. Don’t count out 2-time World Champion Catrina Allen either, despite recording the three worst finishes of her career in a row. Allen has won twice at Smugglers’ Notch, though she has not finished on the podium since 2020. At last year’s event, she finished 24th, which at the time was the worst finish of her career. With an extra week off to work through her mechanical issues, Cat will be eyeing a return to form in Burlington this week.

5. Calvin Heimburg is still looking to earn his first career major championship, but he’s yet to have a great performance at Smugglers’ Notch. Vinny has played GMC four times, averaging a 1043 event rating with a career best finish of 6th place back in 2020. Traditionally he’s performed a bit better on Fox Run than Brewster Ridge, so one extra round on the open track could play in his favor. Chris Dickerson, on the other hand, has been fantastic at Smuggs, winning the 2021 GMC and finishing as a runner-up in 2022. Chris was tied for the lead on the final hole last year but threw his tee shot out of bounds and ended up carding a triple-bogey. After a slow start to the season, Dickerson has been quietly rounding into form and just took home a podium finish at DGLO. The 2-time major champion should be considered one of the favorites to claim his first world title this week.

6. Plenty of previous major winners aside from Dickerson have a great opportunity to become first time World Champions this week. Hailey King won the 2021 GMC, logging a 1052 rated round at Fox Run, and was the runner-up in 2020 after a tremendous battle with Paige Pierce. King did not play in the 2022 GMC. Missy Gannon may only be a major winner in spirit (the TPWDGC is technically an A-tier), but her back-to-back wins at Ledgestone should give her some confidence to perform well on both Brewster and Fox Run. Eagle McMahon has played well as of late, but came up just short at several events. His best career finish at Smuggs was a 4th place finish in 2020, but he is more than capable of shredding both courses. Champions Cup winner Isaac Robinson played the GMC for the first time last season and finished tied for 2nd with Dickerson and Matt Orum. With two majors and an average tour finish of 10.2 since April, Robinson would immediately jump into the Player of the Year conversation with a win in Burlington.

Of course, reigning U.S. Champion Gannon Buhr is Calvin Heimburg’s primary competition for that title, and he currently has more wins. Becoming the World Champion would almost certainly give the nod to Buhr, who would become the second youngest World Champion in PDGA history.

The Courses

Smugglers’ Notch is home to two premier disc golf courses. Brewster Ridge is a shorter but tightly wooded track that plays in the foothills of the Sterling Mountain Range. Brewster ranked #4 on UDisc’s 2023 list of the best disc golf courses in the world. The other course, Fox Run Meadows, currently sits at #7 on that list. Fox Run is an open course with beautiful mountain views and plenty of OB to keep players out of the wetlands that surround the course. The open meadows can lead to increased difficulty progressing up the fairways when heavier winds are present.

While both courses have been altered from the 2022 GMC, the most significant changes are to Brewster’s FPO layout. The course now plays nearly 200 feet shorter and one stroke easier to par. Holes 2, 4, 9 and 15 all have new FPO teepads that have been moved up to make the greens more reachable for the entire field. There were only eight birdies carded on those four holes combined at the 2022 GMC.

While the MPO layout has seen fewer changes, it will play more difficult as a result of those tweaks. Hole 3’s MPO teepad has been moved back 40 feet after seeing a 65% birdie rate at the GMC and just one bogey. It played as the easiest hole on the course. Hole 8 had both teepads moved back 200 feet, and will now play as a Par 5 as opposed to a Par 4. Hole 14 now has separate baskets for the divisions. The FPO basket plays 25 feet shorter than GMC, and the MPO basket plays 55 feet longer. Hole 18’s basket has been moved back 55 feet, though the FPO teepad has been moved up to negate the difference in length for that division.

On Fox Run Meadows, hole 7’s skinny fairway has been widened in certain areas to create bigger landing zones as players progress down the Par 5’s fairway. Hole 8 has been shortened into a Par 3, while hole 12 now has tighter OB and has been adjusted from a Par 4 to a Par 5. The MPO teepad now plays 300 feet longer and requires a long OB carry off the tee. Hole 10 has tightened OB along the left side, while hole 13 has a new mando right on the edge of circle 2. Hole 17 has been moved back 70 feet for both divisions to increase the difficulty.

2023 MPO Brewster: 8,350 Feet Par 62
2022 MPO Brewster: 7,997 Feet Par 61

2023 MPO Fox Run: 9,515 Feet Par 63
2022 MPO Fox Run: 9,426 Feet Par 63

2023 FPO Brewster: 7,485 Feet Par 62
2022 FPO Brewster: 7,661 Feet Par 61

2023 FPO Fox Run: 8,360 Feet Par 63
2022 FPO Fox Run: 8,453 Feet Par 63

Extended Forecast

While rain and thunderstorms seem likely for the opening round, the conditions for the remainder of the week should be close to ideal.

  • Wednesday: Thunderstorms likely in the morning with scattered thunderstorms possible in the afternoon. Highs in the mid 70s. Winds 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 80%.
  • Thursday: Sunny with highs in the upper 60s. Winds 5 to 10 mph.
  • Friday: Sunny with highs in the mid 70s. Winds light and variable.
  • Saturday: Partly cloudy with highs in the upper 70s. Winds 10 to 15 mph.
  • Sunday: Mostly sunny with highs in the lower 80s. Winds 5 to 10 mph.
  1. Justin Westfall
    Justin Westfall

    Justin Westfall is a contributor at Ultiworld Disc Golf who enjoys living in Southern California, where he can play disc golf year-round. Off the course, he works in the film industry and prides himself on being a lifelong Buffalo Bills fan. You can find Justin on Twitter and Instagram @PDGAStats.

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