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Paul McBeth’s Top-2 Worlds Streak Snapped: A New Era Dawns

By Nick Quargnenti
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Article Written By: Nick Quargnenti – DGPT Marketing Coordinator

In the world of professional disc golf, one name has consistently stood out apart from the rest of the field for over a decade: Paul McBeth (PDGA# 27523). A 6X Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) World Champion, McBeth has been a dominant force, finishing either in 1st or 2nd place in the annual PDGA Pro Worlds tournament since 2012. That’s an astounding run of excellence spanning an entire era of the sport. However, 2023 marked a turning point in McBeth’s illustrious career, as he finished outside the top-2 at Worlds for the first time since 2012, finishing in the 13th spot.

The End of an Era

McBeth’s consistent presence at the top of the leaderboard had become a defining feature of the sport. Whether it’s Worlds or any other Pro Tour event, fans and players alike had come to expect McBeth’s name among the top contenders year after year. With a career top-10 percentage of 89.78%, it comes as no surprise that most disc golfers have, for years, expected to see McBeth’s name near the top. However, the 2023 PDGA Pro Worlds presented by L.L.Bean served as a stark reminder of the evolving landscape of professional disc golf.

Paul McBeth During the 2023 DGPT Season. Photo: DGPT.

The Mixed Professional Open (MPO) field has grown exponentially in depth and talent, with new champions emerging regularly. In 2023 alone, there were 17 unique Disc Golf Pro Tour (DGPT) event winners across DGPT Silver Events, Elite events, and Major events. This increased competition has made it challenging for any single player to maintain a stranglehold on the top spot. It begs the question – will we ever see any kind of consistent dominance the way we saw it from Ken Climo, Paul McBeth, and very few others? Only time will tell.

McBeth’s Physical Struggles

A significant factor that likely impacted McBeth’s performance at the 2023 Worlds was an undisclosed arm/shoulder injury, which hindered his ability to compete at full strength. McBeth openly discussed this during the Worlds Press Conference, acknowledging that he wasn’t in optimal physical condition. He also mentioned that moving his shoulder was uncomfortable, with the most pain occurring when he executed his putting motion. This revelation shed light on his overall performance, and it’s a testament to his determination that he still managed to secure a respectable 13th-place finish despite this setback.

Furthermore, McBeth indicated that the 2023 PDGA Pro Worlds tournament was probably his final tournament of the year, regardless of his physical condition. Beyond disc golf, he and his wife Hannah are eagerly anticipating the arrival of a new addition to their family, which could play a significant role in Paul’s decision-making process.

A Season in Review

Taking a broader look at McBeth’s 2023 season, he participated in a total of 18 events. Notably, he chose not to compete in any DGPT Silver Events, focusing instead on Elite events, Majors, Euro Tour Events, and a few other select tournaments.

Out of these 18 events, nine were DGPT Elite events and Majors. McBeth secured 1 victory at the PCS Open, also marking his only DGPT Elite event podium finish for the season. In these nine events, McBeth managed to secure three top-10 finishes, he also finished above the cash line at all but 1 of these events.

Paul McBeth Celebrates Victory at the 2023 PCS Open. Photo: DGPT.

McBeth’s 2023 journey also took him across the Atlantic, where he competed in six European events, a testament to his commitment to growing the sport globally. In these six events, he secured three wins, four podium finishes, and five top-10 finishes. Impressively, McBeth cashed in every Euro Tour and European Pro Tour event he participated in, boasting a 100% cash rate in these international competitions. It’s important to note that although McBeth didn’t participate in any DGPT Silver Events, the Euro Tour events he did participate in would end up rewarding him Silver Event points.

It’s worth emphasizing that the conclusion of McBeth’s top-2 World’s streak doesn’t equate to a decline in his exceptional skills. As of September 3rd, 2023, UDisc World Rankings place McBeth at an impressive number 3, while his StatMando Official Rankings stand at number 7 as of September 5th, 2023. McBeth’s consistent presence within the top-10 in official rankings underscores his capability to potentially resume his competitive prowess upon his inevitable return to the Pro Tour.

Paul McBeth During the 2023 DGPT Season. Photo: DGPT.

Close Calls

Over the past decade of Paul McBeth’s performances at the World Championships, there were a few memorable moments of suspense, some in his favor and others not so much. Looking back to 2012 and the years that followed, the closest McBeth ever came to breaking his streak of finishing in 1st or 2nd place was in 2018. Interestingly, 2018 was also the last time Smuggler’s Notch hosted the World Championships.

Despite a strong start with impressive scores, boasting a total of 21 under par after the first two rounds, McBeth faced a setback in the 3rd round, managing only 1 under par. This created an opening for other determined competitors, like Joshua Anthon (PDGA# 17946), who shot an outstanding 8 under par in the 3rd round, also securing the hot round of that day. McBeth, however, regrouped and rallied, ultimately tying with Anthon for 2nd place in the remaining two rounds, and preserving his streak of 1st or 2nd place finishes that year. The 2018 Worlds title was ultimately claimed by Greg Barsby (PDGA# 15857).

Further emphasizing McBeth’s dominance at Worlds in the last decade- The only other time McBeth came somewhat close to missing out on a top 2 spot was the year prior, when he edged out Simon Lizotte (PDGA# 8332) by just three strokes for a 2nd place finish. In 2017, Ricky Wysocki (PDGA# 38008) emerged as the World Champion, for his 2nd consecutive year nonetheless.

On the flip side, McBeth came agonizingly close to securing another Worlds title if it hadn’t been for one of the most legendary shots ever witnessed in disc golf history – The Holy Shot. Despite holding a comfortable lead (and position after the lead cards’ drives) as he approached hole 18 during the final round in 2021, James Conrad (PDGA# 17295) executed an astonishing upshot that forced a playoff against McBeth. With momentum firmly on Conrad’s side, history was made as he outperformed McBeth in the first playoff hole, snatching the title away from him.

However, redemption was swift for McBeth in the following year, 2022. He orchestrated a remarkable series of shots that propelled him into a playoff against Aaron Gossage (PDGA# 35449), ultimately securing his 6th World Championship title.

World Class Stats

Throughout the past decade, McBeth consistently delivered some of the highest-rated rounds of his career at the annual Worlds tournament. From 2012 to this year, McBeth’s average World tournament rating hovered just below 1048, specifically at an impressive 1047.91. His standout performance occurred in 2019 when McBeth outpaced Wysocki by a single stroke, achieving an extraordinary rating of 1056. Remarkably, even in 2023, with a 13th-place finish at Worlds, McBeth maintained his average Worlds rating at a formidable 1048.

Additionally, with the conclusion of his 1st or 2nd place Worlds streak this year, McBeth now holds the 2nd-longest top-2 Worlds streak in disc golf history, 2nd only to the 12X World Champion himself, Ken Climo (PDGA# 4297). From 1990 to 2000, Climo established an impressive record with a streak of 11 consecutive top-2 finishes at Worlds, setting the standard for excellence in the sport. Within this time for Climo, he only claimed a 2nd place finish in 1999, the rest of his Worlds placements ended in 1st place (equating to 10 of his 12 World titles during this renowned streak). Between 1990 and 1998, Climo has reached a once in a decade (and perhaps a millennia) milestone of nine consecutive 1st place finishes at Worlds.

Paul McBeth During the 2023 DGPT Season. Photo: DGPT.

Lastly, but certainly not least, McBeth proudly displays his 6 World Championships as a beacon of achievement on his mantle. It’s widely known among disc golf enthusiasts that McBeth’s 6 MPO World Titles rank 2nd only to one player – Ken Climo. The question lingers: Can Climo’s record of 12 World Championships ever be surpassed?

A New Chapter

As we reflect on the 2023 PDGA Pro Worlds and Paul McBeth’s journey throughout the season, it’s clear that the landscape of professional disc golf is continually evolving. McBeth’s unparalleled reign at the top may be fading, but his impact on the sport will endure. As new champions rise and the competition intensifies, McBeth’s legacy serves as a testament to the dedication and skill required to excel in this rapidly growing and fiercely competitive sport. The era of Paul McBeth consistently reaching the top may be coming to a close, but the future of professional disc golf has never looked brighter.

Paul McBeth During the 2023 DGPT Season. Photo: DGPT.

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