Well, we all knew it was coming. With a category 2 hurricane ravishing the southeast just a few hundred miles away, the chances of getting through four days of competition without rain at the 2016 United States Disc Golf Championship in Rock Hill, South Carolina were slim to none. Unfortunately, for the nearly 100 players that qualified for and are competing in the event the old adage of “When it rains, it pours.” held true. And tomorrow’s forecast doesn’t look any better.
Video: The conditions were very wet for the morning groups. A majority of the downpour came in the morning well before the lead card’s scheduled tee time of 12:40pm EDT. Just when we thought Winthrop Gold couldn’t get any more difficult, rain pummeled the course for hours, creating dozens of large puddles and eventually micro-streams that were flowing steadily up, down, and across many of the fairways. By the time the last few cards were taking to the tee, the precipitation had come to a hault. It was an unfortunate turn of events for the players in the middle of the pack looking to climb up in the rankings, forced to play in heavy rain while the players above them stayed dry for most of the round, but the situation could have just as easily been the opposite.
The good news is that we can always play disc golf in the rain. There are several factors that could made the situation much worse (e.g. lightning, low temperatures, extreme wind). All we can do is be thankful that we didn’t have to deal with delays and/or safety issues for the players on the course today, and we can only hope to have the same good luck for the rainy forecast for the final round tomorrow.
Video: Jeremy Koling birdied 5 out of the first 5. Here's "Big Jerm" on hole 5. Find more videos like this here.
Coming into the third round on top of the leaderboard at both the last PDGA Major of the year and the first ever Disc Golf World Tour finale event, Eagle McMahon’s lead of four strokes likely appeared as a nice cushion to many. But anyone that’s ever played the Winthrop Gold course, or anyone that’s ever watched the seemingly endless nail-biting drama that the USDGC creates, knows that four strokes is nowhere near enough to be comfortable.
Video: McMahon had a rocky start for his round. Find more videos like this here. That point was proven quickly at the start of the round this afternoon as McMahon’s birdie putt on hole 1 hit the basket, rolled to 60 feet away, eventually leading to a tap-in for a double-bogey five while the then 2nd place holder Jeremy Koling hit his putt for a birdie two. McMahon answered with a beautiful backhand roller on hole 2 that left him with a chance to card an eagle on the 629’ par 4, only to see his putter go over the basket and land out of bounds. Koling once again tapped in for his second birdie in a row, meaning that after just two holes there was already a tie at the top of the leaderboard.
Joined by Ricky Wysocki and Nikko Locastro on the lead card, both of which were easily in striking range, Koling and McMahon battled back and forth throughout the round. After 12 holes that included a returning bit of rain and drizzle, McMahon had moved back into the lead, two ahead of Koling. However, with one of the most difficult holes on the course (and arguably on the planet) up next, anything could happen.
Often referred to as simply “888”, hole 13 is an extremely tricky par 4 that measures in at 697’ this year after a change in the design from previous years that involved a drastic change in the tee location, about a hundred feet to the left of where it has been previously. The new tee location made an already difficult hole that much harder, taking away the spike hyzer route that so many have come to enjoy over the years to land safely in the narrow fairway that has roped-OB on both the right and left sides.
Video: The infamous 888 can crush dreams. Find more videos like this here.
To make a long story short, six throws and three OB penalties later McMahon was forced to tap in for his 10th stroke on 888, a double triple bogey. McMahon all but handed his lead to Koling on a platter, who finished the hole with a bogey five to move to the top of leaderboard, three ahead of the rest of the field.
The back-and-forth continued throughout the round, with Wysocki, Locastro, and Michael Johansen eventually moving ahead of McMahon overall.
With the gallery behind the tee and lining the fairway, Ricky Wysocki took to the tee of the infamous hole 17. At only 250’, it’s not the distance that makes it such a dream crusher, it’s the combination of a very small lakeside island green lined by hay bales combined with the fact that those who don’t make the island off the tee have to re-tee until they do. There is also an option to lay up off the tee for a shorter (but still very frightening) approach shot.
Ricky knows the hole well, as it is the same one that cost him the title just one year ago. Needless to say, Ricky got his revenge. A forehand drive that looked perfect through its entire flight slammed center chains for an ace as the crowd erupted. It was truly a beautiful moment.
With some fairly extreme weather heading towards Rock Hill for the final round, there's still plenty of players that can at least theoretically take home the championship. The Winthrop Gold is known for opening doors for some, while crushing the dreams of others. The 5 players with the best chance of success are Jeremy Koling (currently at -17), Nikko Locastro (-13), Ricky Wysocki (-12) and Michael Johansen & Eagle McMahon, both tied at -8. Michael Johansen will replace McMahon on the lead card on Saturday, thanks to his better round score today.
With more rain on the way and the lake rising quickly, the staff of the PDGA, USDGC, and Disc Golf World Tour came up with a plan to make sure the rounds are both fair and safe for the players for the final round. Sadly, one of the changes is that hole 17 will not be played at all, as there’s a good chance the green will be under water by the end of the day tomorrow.
There are a few other minor changes, all of which are listed on the PDGA website.
Video: It wasn't all bad for McMahon, as he finally snagged that Eagle on hole 10. Find more videos like this here.
During the 3rd round, our social media team was following mostly the first 2 cards on the course. As a result, you can find a lot of photo updates, as well as hole-specific play-by-play videos on our instagram account. Make sure to check them out here!
We also have The SpinTV production crew piecing together a wrap up show to be released later tonight. The show will feature select plays from the moving day round, as well as player interviews and Disc Golf Metrix analysis. Stay tuned for the show later this evening and while you're at it, check out last night's Wrap Up show below:
We also highly recommend checking out the leaderboard and Metrix and course stats from round 2. The new feature we added at the European Masters, player- and hole-specific instagram videos on the scoring interface, is in place here at Winthrop too, so make sure to check those out by clicking the tiny red arrows where available.
The majority of the Metrix stats are available for registered users only, so make sure to register here if you haven’t already! And if you’re in luck, registering may pay off in a big way, as we’re raffling a limited edition DGWT Grip Equipment bag among our followers after the event.
There's still plenty of action to come, so make sure to check back tomorrow for Final Round action from the 2016 United States Disc Golf Championship!
Story: Marty Gregwah / PDGA & DGWT Staff