Väinö Mäkelä set the pace early with a 5-under opening round at the Open at Austin. Photo: DGPT
The first ever Open at Austin, the third stop of the 2023 Disc Golf Pro Tour season, kicked off with a windy opening round, causing difficulties for even the best players in the FPO and MPO fields as they navigate a brand-new course designed specifically for this event.
Gusty 20mph winds pushed drives out of bounds and forced players to adapt to different wind directions from what they had practiced in. The course and condition delivered another tight leaderboard with three tied for the lead in FPO and four knotted at the top in MPO.
Paige Pierce tees off on Friday at the Harvey Penick Golf Course in Austin, Texas. Photo: DGPT
Familiar Faces Fight to the Top
After their back-and-forth battle for the win at the Waco Annual Charity Open last weekend, Kristin Tattar and Ella Hansen are once again at the top of the leaderboard at the end of the first round of The Open at Austin. Paige Pierce, who is also no stranger to the lead, joins Hansen and Tattar at one stroke under par at the end of the opening round. As well as sharing the same final score, they played remarkably similar games as each of them had four birdies and two OB strokes.
The windy conditions at the new Harvey Penick course proved challenging for the FPO field in round 1 with every player taking at least one bogey and going out of bounds at least once. By the end of the round, only the three leaders managed to stay under par. Overall, the FPO field averaged 10.23 strokes over par without a single hole averaging under par for the day. According to StatMando, at 1.89 strokes over par, hole 18 played tougher than any FPO hole at all Major and Elite events in 2022.
Kristin Tattar lines up a shot on Friday in Austin, Texas. Photo: DGPT
Despite a tough opening round, Tattar and Hansen have an optimistic outlook on the course and their potential to score in calmer conditions.
“The conditions were really tough and otherwise the course is quite straightforward,” said Tattar after her round. “I thought there would be better scoring opportunities but the wind made it really tough.”
“I think it’s a really good challenging course for FPO,” said Hansen of the new course, “In my opinion, it’s not too bomber. I mean there are some shots that help throwing long distance, but I’m not really throwing full max-power backhand drives on almost any of the holes.”
Ella Hansen is back on top of the leaderboard. Photo: DGPT
While most players would choose to lay up from circle 2 in windy conditions, Paige Pierce sank a 73 ft putt for birdie on hole 15, taking the only birdie of the day. With calmer conditions predicted for round 2, we can expect more fireworks as players attempt to stay on top or fight their way up the leaderboard. Henna Blomroos and Missy Gannon will start moving day at only two strokes over par, leaving the leaders with just a three-stroke cushion.
“The gameplan will remain the same,” said Tattar of her plan for Saturday. “I just hope there’s less wind and better scoring opportunities for all of us.”
Live coverage of begins at 10 a.m. CT on the Disc Golf Network.
Simon Lizotte finished strong on the back nine to grab a share of the lead. Photo: DGPT
MPO’s Learning Curve
“That’s the Lizotte style, play well and then get double bogey out of nowhere,” joked Simon Lizotte after his opening round at the Harvey Penick Golf Course.
The front 9 was a bit of a roller-coaster for Lizotte, birdieing hole 1 (one of only seven players on the day) but suffering a long rollaway on hole 3 that led to a bogey. Just when he was feeling confident with a birdie on hole 8, Lizotte missed the mando on hole 9 and took a double bogey.
“Hole three my bogey was unnecessary, my putt an inch higher I take a birdie,” said Lizotte of some difficulties putting in the wind, “That’s golf you know; little inches here and there change the story.”
Despite difficulties on the front 9, Lizotte powered through gusty winds and went on to make five birdies on the back 9. Finishing his round in high spirits going into round 2, Lizotte is tied for the lead at five strokes under par with Paul McBeth, Väinö Mäkelä, and Gannon Buhr.
Gannon Buhr lines up a putt during a windy day in Austin. Photo: DGPT
While five under might not seem as low as we’ve come to expect from the hot round at an Elite Series event, the leaders fared much better than most of the field as MPO averaged 1.77 strokes over par in round 1. Mäkelä was the first MPO player to enter the clubhouse at five-under after taking an eagle on hole 16, securing a spot on his first lead card on the DGPT.
As the course conditions calmed down towards the end of the afternoon, players on later cards were able to finish strong, leading to four-way ties for both first and second place. McBeth was able to get to seven-under before taking bogeys on the last two holes.
Paul McBeth stumbled in the final two holes after hitting 7-under par on Friday. Photo: DGPT
Despite the new course and adverse conditions, Buhr was one of four players to avoid taking a single bogey. Going bogey-free might not be enough in round 2 as players will need to take advantage of calmer weather to stay ahead, especially with Lizotte taking an early share of the lead. According to StatMando, every time Lizotte made a Round 2 Lead Card in 2022, he went on to win.
With better scoring conditions and a second chance at the new Harvey Penick course, we’ll see how aggressive the MPO field gets in round two.
Live coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. CT on DGN.