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AbsoluteXtracts presents the 2019 San Francisco Open driven by Innova: MPO Preview – Fire on the Mountain

By Baker Helton
​It’s May, It’s Spring, the leaves are out and the grass is green, especially over in California as we have just over 24 hours until the first players will tee off at the AbsoluteXtracts presents the San Francisco Open driven by Innova Champion Discs at the stunning and beastly Gleneagles Disc Golf Course. In 2018 Paul McBeth walked away with one of his first major victories of the season, this year he’s looking to just add it to the list and keep this drive going. The guy is legit on fire lately. I tried to catch up with him for a Mind of the Champion spotlight interview but he’s just too hot to get close to. I did have the chance to sit down with Sarah Hokom though and I highly recommend checking that interview out here! Paul may have picked up the W here last year but there were a lot of players in the pack prospecting for a win too. Let’s get into it.

Luscious green on the fairway and rough – Gleneagles throws in a third challenge on top of precision and power: don’t get distracted by the beauty!
​Now that we are pretty confident the top three guys to beat in MPO are who they are, looking back at the 2018 SFO scores doesn’t look at all surprising. But remember last year when Eagle, who we knew was stupid good at throwing frisbees, went to train in the Alps and came back to the US and all but locked in the National Tour points series halfway through the season?  We were all wondering if he could keep it up straight through 2018. At the same time, the early season narrative regarding Paul McBeth was something along the lines of “what’s wrong with Paul?” Well if there’s anyone who’s motivated by stiff competition, it’s Paul McBeth. In fact, if you look at their seasons side-by-side (see chart below), you can see that right around SFO was the turning point. Up till Nick Hyde, Paul had yet to beat Eagle. After that Eagle would only best Paul two more times at any of the elite level events…because McBeth pretty much hit the win switch. Honestly, if we really wanna take the metaphor too far, it was likely McMahon who hit the switch, likely unaware he would wake the McBeast!

I’m no statistician but this chart is pretty clear to me…
​While we’re on the topic of McBeast…SPOILER ALERT…Paul McBeth won the 2018 San Francisco Open. But much like his recent win in Emporia at the 2019 GBO, he didn’t lead any statistic except in this case he led in birdies. Oh, and he also wasn’t covered in poison ivy. Honestly Paul, on behalf of all of us in the disc golf community, thanks for beating all the best of us while you’re in less than perfect health. It’s a real confidence booster…anyways, as I was saying, sometimes all that matters is who birdies the most. It’s not how you got there at the end of the day it’s just the fact that you made it.

Just out enjoying another beautiful San Francisco day…oh and winning $3,310, congrats McBeast!
In the final round, at the tee on 1, we were squared up for a classic Battle – Paul vs Ricky, version uncountable (actually, if anyone knows how many times those two have had a battle for first I’d love to know!). Re-watching it, there is something about Paul’s smile after he cashes that 74’ putt for eagle on hole 9 that just says, “thank you very much, I’ll take this win and I’m here to stay.” With that eagle 2, Paul carded a 4 under par front nine to Ricky’s 3 under (He also added his name to the list of only three players who got an Eagle that weekend on that hole –Jeff Faes, who hit a 201’ throw in and Drew Gibson, who was five feet away from a 747’ ace, sorry you only got a drop-in Drew…). Back to the battle though, one throw separated them with nine holes to go, and Eagle McMahon was applying a generous serving of pressure from the chase card. Despite everyone’s best efforts though, McBeth strode across the Gleneagles back nine to his fourth Pro Tour Victory.

Everyone’s all about hyping those raptor legs, but this raptor also has bionic laser eyes! Terryifying!
​Ricky Wysocki four-putted hole 15 in the final round. Yes, even god’s bleed on occasion too. I know, hard to believe, go watch it if you don’t believe me! You don’t want a single hole to define your performance at any event, but it was that hole that ended up being the mistake he didn’t get to recover from. Ricky is certainly never one to lay up and I can’t remember the last time he missed a long run and didn’t hit the comeback. Well, it happened here. His birdie run at the stump mounted raised basket into a gnarly headwind created a full depth Circle 1 putt right back up at it. Another miss and then a truly uncharacteristic third miss left Ricky with a dreaded birdouble-bogey. Ouch. He would actually claw back that two throw swing with Paul’s OB on the very next hole, but he needed more go in his chase than that. He finished three behind McBeth and a lay-up on 16 would have secured him sole possession of second if all else goes the same. But we can’t rewrite history and Ricky can’t settle for anything but first, anything else is simply losing. But hey, he did set the course record on round two with a 9 under par 53. Nice shooting Rick!

Gorgeous backdrop for a brutal moment – Ricky Wysocki’s only four-putt of the season (prove me wrong?)
Eagle McMahon is pretty much the reason that McBeth didn’t lead any stats. By the time all three rounds were turned in there was no one who threw the disc better than Eagle did that weekend. He led the pack in Fairways and both Circle 1 and Circle 2 In Regulation. But there was something about the greens that just weren’t playing in his favor, making only 66% of his Circle 1X Putts and only Parking 3 baskets for birdie throughout the entire event – 2 on the first day and 1 on the last. You’d think on a big course like Gleneagles that Eagle would lead the pack in Parked percentages but there were 37 players who did better and the top valet on the day was none other than big-armed tour staple, Garret Gurthie. It’s hard to say what else held Eagle back from catching Paul other than his C1X putting, missing 13 of 37 Circle 1X putts is just downright uncharacteristic. But if you’re thinking, Eagle’s putting well right now, I’ll pick him for my fantasy pick – don’t – he’s skipping this one to rest up in his home state of Colorado before heading back out on tour. See you soon Eagle!

Eagle, my man! you gotta make those putts, this could have been yours!
​Gleneagles requires a well-rounded game. This isn’t your run of the mill smasher’s display (though go watch The Challenge at Goat Hill if you’re looking for that) and it’s also not your classic wicked windy and wooded track, but somehow kind of both. Whoever can bring both precision and power will stand a good chance at cashing. But if you’re not making birdie on at least 40% of the holes you can say goodbye to the podium and if you’re looking for that top 10 list, you’ll need to birdie more than 30% of the time. There is something to be said for the value of power through when the top 10 in 2018 includes Eagle McMahon, Simon Lizotte, Drew Gibson, and Garrett Gurthie (all of whom are known to throw a mile). Then again there’s something to be said for the value of precision with a couple strong forehand dominant metaphorical lawn dart pros like Ricky Wysocki and Gregg Barsby and Jeremy Koling alongside some of the most accurate backhand players like Paul McBeth(who yes does have a great forehand as well) and Josh Anthon. Basically what I’m trying to say is this – if you were hoping for a helpful prediction all I can tell you is it’s hard saying not knowing – but hey, putting your money on Paul is never a bad bet these days.

there is just something so deeply validating about Gurthie’s forehand style. I love seeing him choose the right shot even it’s not his go-to line.
The AbsoluteXtracts presents the 2019 San Francisco Open driven by Innova Champion Discs kicks off tomorrow and you won’t want to miss any of the action. Check out our live schedule below and until then get out there and play some golf!

Article Written by Staff Writer & Editor Zach Podhorzer . All photo credit to Alyssa Van Lanen. Apologies to player sponsors, it’s literally impossible to find a photo from last years event with your brand on your players when they switched this year!