It’s hard to talk about the MPO edition of the 2018 Memorial Championship Presented by Discraft without talking about Simon Lizotte, but I already did that last week in his Mind of a Champion interview. If you haven't already, make sure to check it out before the event begins to read up on his off-season, training, and some helpful hints dashed in there to improve your game. Even though he was the winner last year, we can't just talk about Simon when it comes to this year's rendition of the Memorial, but we will be talking about his win plenty!. It’s important to remember, a “hyzer-festival” (as Simon calls the Memorial) isn’t necessarily easier than other events for all the touring pros. But for the sky tickling big arms, a meaty bag overstable plastic could put them in contention for the win.
Before Simon could tap in his winning putt, there were a full four rounds of action that had to unfold. Day one saw a five-way tie for the hot round at Fountain Hills at -10 between Ricky Wysocki, Nikko Locastro, Karl Johan Nybo, JohnE McCray, and Teemu Nissinen. None of them would go on to finish on the podium – Wysocki was the closest with his fourth-place finish. Simon wasn’t far off though, he was locked in a three-way tie for second with Eagle McMahon and Eric Oakley only one back from the leaders at -9.
Day two decided it preferred chaos over order as Nikko was the only leader from day one to hold onto a lead card spot after day two with another 10 down, this time at Vista Del Camino. Ricky actually stayed tied with Nikko but neither of them was able to keep up the handful of players in the top ten jostling for position. Nate Sexton, Paul McBeth, and James Conrad all posted -13s to tie for the hot round and there was only one single bogey between the bunch of them. Add to that list a couple of -12s, and four -11s (one of which was Simon) and the whole leaderboard got a good shuffle for day three.
Day three was when Simon really put some weight on the pedal and boy did he take off. Of the four players on the lead card, Simon was the only one to never call out anything besides a birdie or a par. Eagle was only two away with two bogeys, so make those pars and they tie. Make those bogeys birdies, and Eagle would have cleaned Fountain Hills out with a borderline superhuman 16. Up till that point Simon and Eagle had never been more than a throw or two away from each other, so to be headed into the final round only two behind would mean he likely was Simon's only legitimate competition for this event.
It sounds odd to say it, but Paul really fell off on round 3 at fountain hills, tossing a -6. That’s only about a third of what he threw in his historic 17 down at Fountain Hills for the Memorial. Nikko’s round wasn’t great, but he looked to be ready to stay in the hunt until catastrophe struck on hole 18, a hole that Nikko had aced in a previous edition of the Memorial years back. Trusting a Star Destroyer out wide of the right side path, Nikko just played it too safe. With almost no skip back left towards the basket, he was left with a lengthy Circle 2 look. Whether he knew it at the time or not, a lot was riding on that putt. It looked pure, he started to run it down, and then the disc skipped high off the top of the basket, bouncing once on the grass before rolling directly into the lake. His lengthy uphill come back put struck center but low, bouncing off the cage and rolling back out for yet another long putt that caught the top of the basket again, but flopped emphatically on the ground next to the basket and stayed. With that, Nikko lost his spot on the lead card and fell all the way to third.
That’s just how tight the leaderboard is at this tournament – a single botched outing on the green can leave you cards behind where you were at the beginning of your round. That’s what makes birdie-or-die golf so exhilarating to watch. When almost every hole can be birdied, you know every time you miss one some smaller or larger chunk of the field just got one on you and now you’ll have to it earn back. With only a few par 4s on each course that puts a lot of pressure on nailing every drive and sinking every putt on every hole. That level of precision is incredibly demanding but none of the players in reach of the lead had any interesting in letting off the gas.
In the final round, what started as a battle between teammates, almost became a three-person scramble for first with Nate Sexton, who hadn’t thrown a bogey since day one. He came out the gates on a tear, carding nine birdies in twelve holes before going cold for just a few too many holes to remain a relevant competitor for Simon. Eagle didn't let Simon win it easy though, by the time they had finished a third of the round, Eagle was actually in first place, but Simon fired back with seven birdies in the last twelve holes. On the 18th hole, Eagle had the green light for an ace run to force a playoff with Simon who had already laid up his drive. An absolute sky-hyzer backhand of a PD2 took flight from Eagle's hand and crossed the basket at just the right height, but just a few feet short on distance. And that was that. Simon Lizotte had rebuked the lanky bird and the charging tour veteran to pick up his first big win of the year.
You can look back over the years of this event and find a story in every round. More than any other tournament, the Memorial makes me feel like we are already right back in the thick of the season, complete with rivalries, epic battles, and incredibly low scores. I mean, Simon birdied 46 of the 72 holes they played. That’s an absurd 64% of the holes. Going off the looks of the first couple tournaments of this year, there are a couple of guys looking more than ready to prove themselves the hyzer-festival champion. Make sure to tune in this Thursday for live coverage of both the FPO and MPO feature cards as they take to the fairways and greens of Fountain Hills for the first round of the Memorial Championship Presented by Discraft.
This article written by Staff Editor and Writer Zach Podhorzer. All photography credit to Alyssa Van Lanen.
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