Pro Worlds Day 1 Recap: Tattar, Clemons Take Early Leads Amidst Rain, Lightning

A lightning delay and darkness pushed the finish of MPO round one into Thursday.

Kristin Tattar at the 2023 PDGA Pro Worlds. Photo: DGPT

With its 90 holes spread over five rounds that have often been played out in swampy mid-summer heat, the Pro World Championships is often called a marathon, an analogy more worn out than some of the Innova Eagles in 2018 World Champion Gregg Barsby’s bag. It’s also inaccurate, because it’s not a marathon, it’s a triathlon: you can’t win the event in the early stages, but you can put yourself in — or out — of contention. Miss the early jump into the lead pack and it’s very hard to climb back up. Historically, most World Champions have hovered around the top two cards for the whole event.

Despite the cooler Vermont climate this year, it seems that the physical and mentally demanding nature of the Worlds was still on the minds of most of the field, something that influenced competitors’ preparation.

“As a player, you only have so much mental energy to give at tournaments,” said 2016 and 2017 world champ Ricky Wysocki. “Once it gets depleted, that’s when you see people get burned out. I feel like I’ve been saving it up and keeping the mental tank full for this week, and I’m ready to burn that tank low and not just make a run at the title but win it.”

“The worlds has always been more rounds than most tournaments and I feel like that falls in my favor,” said 6-time world champion Paul McBeth. “Through the years, I’ve been the most consistent player on tour, and I think that just really shows at the Worlds. We are down to five rounds now but when I won my first it was seven, a semifinal, and then a final nine, so the more holes the better for me.”

It seems, though, that nobody told Kristin Tattar that you can’t win the tournament in the first round, because it appeared that she was trying to. Right from her first throw in the event, a laser beam straight 320-foot forehand drive that bisected the fairway, faded, and skipped just wide of the bullseye to give her a birdie putt, the defending champ was focused, aggressive, and precise. Tattar had spoken in the pre-tournament press conference of the importance of staying in her process and not having the overall goal at the front of her mind; she showed every sign of having that focus locked in. The early leader, Finland’s Silva Saarinen, was 5-under-par after 12 holes; Tattar matched that score in the first seven holes on her way to a provisionally 1034-rated, 8-under-par 54.

It appears that — following Tattar’s 890-rated final round in the European Championships, where she saw a 16-stroke lead evaporate to 3-strokes at the finish — rumors of a new injury were greatly exaggerated. As Tattar said prior to the tournament, “I don’t have a new injury; it’s just old things that are popping up from time to time.” Ohn Scoggins said that Tattar’s putting form in the mixed doubles championships was impeccable, and the putter stayed hot for Kristen during the first round: she missed just a single putt from circle one and was red hot in circle two (67%), including a memorable make on hole seven where she threaded a putt through a narrow gap between two trees from 40-feet for the birdie.

Tattar holds a 3-stroke lead over Valerie Mandujano with Kat Mertsch another stroke back and Missy Gannon tied for 4th place with Stacie Rawnsley five strokes off the lead. In this summer where Vermont has experienced record high rainfall, the middle of the FPO round turned into a deluge. “It was miserable,” said Tattar after the round. “When we were on the par five, it felt like somebody had a bucket full of water and was just pouring it on us. It is probably the heaviest rain I have ever played in.”

The rain cleared by the MPO afternoon round and players who were lucky enough to get an earlier tee time were able to capitalize on the dry conditions. Chris Clemons put together 12 birdies on a clean sheet for an early lead that started to look better and better as the afternoon wore on. Anthony Barela hit 11 birdies but had one blemish on his card with a bogey on the difficult par five hole 8 (the most bogeyed hole on the day) to be 10-under. Following them is the very 2023 pack of seven players tied for fourth place.

Most of the field was still on the course and the feature cards had barely teed off when a lightning horn suspended play for long enough that seven cards didn’t have enough daylight to finish their rounds after play resumed. These players are completing their rounds early this morning before round two commences later in the day. Of these players, Aaron Gossage and Niklas Anttila, both running clean sheets and 6-under-par after 12 holes, look the most likely to get within striking distance of Clemons.

Most of the big names had rough starts and have some ground to make up: McBeth, Wysocki, and James Conrad are all 3-under par, although Wysocki and Conrad have seven more holes to play. This year’s best player so far, Calvin Heimburg, almost started his Worlds with an ace, hitting the top band of the basket off the tee on hole one. He followed this with a double bogey on hole 2 before finding his rhythm and six birdies in the next ten holes to be 5-under-par with 6 holes of round one yet to play.

So, in the MPO, it is only really Chris Clemons who has put himself in clear contention. A chaotic and muddy picture will be clearer, literally and figuratively, after we complete day two in what looks like the beginning of a few days of fine weather.

Note that, in MPO, cards will not reshuffle for the second round: due to the darkness delay, players will compete on the same cards they played on during round one. It means that Clemons and others will be nearly off the course by the time the broadcast starts for round two, continuing the unusual start to this year’s Worlds.

  1. Kingsley Flett
    Kingsley Flett

    Kingsley Flett is a writer, photographer, and disc golfer who lives in Western Australia. You can find some more of his work on Instagram. He told us that he rides a Kangaroo to work every day, but we don’t believe him.


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