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Play It Again Sports Jonesboro Open presented by Prodiscus: MPO Preview –  GOATs, Raptors, and Eagles…Oh My!

By Baker Helton
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Wow, does the season move fast or what? It’s almost the end of tax season and we’ve seen so many events with quite the variety of winners. As we draw closer and closer to Friday we are now less than 24 hours away from the first tee times of the 2019 Play It Again Sports Jonesboro Open presented by Prodiscus. Our Mind of a Champion interviews are already up for your reading pleasure – this time I’m talking with Ricky Wysocki and Paige Pierce . Their perspective on the course and their respective fields has me super excited to watch it all unfold this weekend. Ricky finally picked up his first A-Tier win with his new sponsor, Innova, but at this point, it’s hard to predict who he’ll have to dance with if he wants to defend his title again. But let’s get to the research.

Measuring in at just about 10,000 feet, Disc Side of Heaven will test every pro’s proficiency with their distance drivers and on their upshots. The greens are generally open but make sure you land those upshots softly because a little roll can quickly yield disastrous results on these well-groomed grassy grades. That’s what this Arkansas beauty offers better than almost any course – a clean and consistent playing surface with ample elevation and just enough foliage. It is almost reminiscent of legendary courses like Konopiste in the Czech Republic or the Toboggan Course in Grand Rapids, MI. Precision is always important, but here at Jonesboro, the course management allows for throwing difficult lines to be the factor most likely to set the winner apart from the pack. So who’s season is shaping up from the tee and the fairway?

It’s probably easiest to start from the top and work our way down from there – Paul McBeth. Arguably the hottest player of the year, he is currently the highest rated player in the world at healthy 1054 and is also leading in our DGPT power rankings . Any day of the year, Paul McBeth is the guy to beat, but right now he’s on an upward trend with a new bag – an equation that may be moving the consensus closer and closer to accepting his all mighty G.O.A.T.iness. Just take a look at his season stats.

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Paul McBeth’s 2019 Season Stats to date – damn that’s a lot of 1sts…
​He is leading the entire field in Circle 1 and Circle 2 Greens in Regulation and Birdies. How do you beat someone who only bogey’s 4% of the time? That means over the course of a three-day event you can expect him to make two, TWO, mistakes he doesn’t clean up with a healthy dose of scrambled eggs. Which, now that it comes up, he’s pretty good at too, cleaning an 80% of his scrambles, so he is sadly only in 3rd place there. I’d call his putting a weak point of his game, but that’s simply a numbers game right now. At his most recent event, Throw Down the Mountain, McBeth was literally perfect in Circle 1X and cleaned 54% from Circle 2! I’d say he found the problem with his early season putt and completely eradicated it. So who can even challenge a guy that has thrown two 18 under par perfect rounds in the last 10 months?
​If anyone can beat McBeast right now it’s likely to be his trusty arch-rival Ricky Wysocki or the “new” persistent variable that is Eagle McMahon. Definitely take a read of my Mind of a Champion interview with Ricky to hear where his head is at for this one – TLDR: Ricky’s ready for a repeat. If there’s anyone who knows how to keep his momentum going it’s Wysocki. Good thing he finally found some momentum after a little bit of a slow start this year. His Texas States Championship win was a nice addition to his collection of over 100 career wins, but he also didn’t have to face McBeth there. Only weeks before he had been forced to live in Paul’s shadow as his 16 under, which is a fantastic round, lost the spotlight to McBeth’s -18. But Ricky is not one to ever stop charging, even when he has a lead he usually doesn’t change up the game plan and that game plan is usually birdie, birdie, birdie….and so on. I won’t be surprised to see these two tango.

As for the lanky bird, Eagle is ranked second in Pro Tour Points and on the National Tour Points right now for a reason. He’s throwing almost as many birdies as McBeth and making just as few mistakes. Where Eagle has seen some “struggle” off the tee and from the fairway, he’s pretty much making up for all of that on the green – where he’s ranked second for making 91% of his Circle 1X putts. But compare his stats to McBeth’s from the tee and you’ll see the ~5% point difference.

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Eagle McMahon’s 2019 Season Stats to date – It’s hard to turn an Eagle into a Goat, but this guy sure is giving it his all
​McBeth is giving himself an average of 1 or 2 more looks at the basket than McMahon, and giving our most recent data point for his putting (100% C1X) I’d say that could easily result in a couple throw gap between the two of them this weekend. Especially on a course like Disc Side of Heaven where the greens are all mostly wide open, throwing well enough to make your putts easy will be the most direct path to victory.
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If you’ve never seen Garrett Gurthie play in person, fix that as soon as possible. This guy throws a MILE!
​Realistically, there are a couple of handful of guys who could put a winning weekend together right now. The skill saturation of the field is so high that it takes a big spike to stand out above everyone else. And now, if you have that spike you’re up against the chances that McBeth could drop another 18, or the unstoppable raptor legs chasing down 40 footers like their 20s, or the unstoppable cloud-breaking force that is Eagle. Make the lead card and chances are you’ll be facing one, two, or all three of them. That is not a set of card mates you can count on to make mistakes. Some likely names for that fourth hypothetical spot could be any of the pros who are slaying lines this year – Josh Anthon and Seppo Paju have actually hit more Fairways than any of the top three have this year totally 87%. Garrett Gurthie is the only one who has bested Eagle on Parked shots. Alex Russel, a relatively new name compared to all the legends and veterans in this article is currently the best Scrambler on the tour.
​I won’t be surprised to see any of these folks in the hunt, but it’s hard to say what this weather might do to everyone’s game. Who knows, sometimes needing to prove yourself competitive at the elite level takes precedence over the need to reassert yourself as the standard of elite play. Whatever happens, I know it’s going to be great to watch and I’ll be watching all of it live, starting at 10 AM EST for FPO and 4:30 PM EST for MPO tomorrow. Don’t miss any of the action, because the Play It Again Sports Jonesboro Open presented by Prodiscus is shaping up to be a clash of the 2019 titans and then some.
This article written by Staff Editor and Writer Zach Podhorzer . All photography credit to Alyssa Van Lanen.