Card 1: 11:30 Card: Ricky Wysocki
Ricky Wysocki and Zack Johnson went note for note through the first seven holes. Hole 8, which is playing as the toughest hole on the course to par, bit Zack as he went OB but managed to save par. Two holes later, Zack missed his putt for par while Ricky hit his putt for birdie. The two stroke swing opened the lead to three. Two holes later, according to Ricky, “You could feel the group deflate as I was up by three or four with five or six to go. At that point I knew I was in control and it was mine to win.”
When asked if he could have done better, Ricky replied, “I played some situational golf out there. I knew where I was on the card and played safe in some places. I could go 10 or 11 down and tomorrow, based on the competition, will probably need to.”
Zack Johnson is left to wait and watch. When asked about his round he commented, “It might be good enough but there are a lot of great players still out on the course.”
Card 2: 12:00 Card: Paul McBeth
Paul Ulibarri and Tim Barham held close to Paul McBeth through the first seven holes, but again, just like on Card 1, left some big marks on the scorecard. Paul Ulibarri would lose two strokes after going OB and would lose ground the rest of the way out. Tim Barham held strong for another few holes until Hole 12, a 400′ par 3. A two putt would cost Barham one stroke. Two holes later, on hole 14, Tim Barham’s improbable run would come to an end. Barham, who had carded a par and a birdie in the first two days, suffered from a “soft drive”. He would go OB by less than foot on his third shot to the pin, ending with a bogey 6. McBeth, as expected, managed to card the birdie, hitting a 16 foot putt. All of a sudden, a two stroke deficit with five to go was a four stroke deficit with four to go. And he was down to the four time world champion who knows how to close out tournaments.
McBeth closed the door by finishing with four straight birdies to end at -9. He said on the first half he struggled early with grip issues then adjusted by holding a towel basically the entire second half. When asked, if weather was the same, could he do better tomorrow he quickly answered, “Oh easily, yeah. There were a bunch of 35 – 40 foot putts on the back nine alone. The grip issues I was having caused my drives to spray a bit. … I could clean it up a lot” and would be looking to shoot “a 12 or 13”.
Two cards in and the battle is as intense as we could have asked.
Card 3: 12:30 Card: Dana Vicich
Thru the first five holes the card was knotted up. As so often happens in this win your card format, one hole can ruin a day and hole 6 came up to bite Drew Gibson. He would throw OB and finish with a three putt. Two holes later he would card another 7, effectively ending his run. Hole 8 changes rounds.
From hole 8 thru hole 11, Dana Vicich would beat each of his card mates by 6 or 7 strokes. As they crumbled, he just got stronger. With five or six holes to play, he realized that he was ahead by five or six and started to play a bit conservative. When asked if he enjoyed being the Cinderella Story, he replied with a Cheshire cat smile, “I planned on flying home Thursday … you can call me whatever you want.” And to close it out, he was told that Ricky predicted 10 or 11 would win. Paul predicted 12 or 13 to win. Dana replied, “I haven’t shot my best golf yet and I don’t care what they shoot as long as I beat them by one.”
Dana Vicich, our little engine that could, remembered last year when he was down by one to McBeth on the final hole in the Semifinals. He followed McBeth’s OB drive with an OB drive of his own. He reminisced saying, “I’m not going to let Paul off the hook this year.” The little engine that could keeps climbing up that hill.
Card 4: 1:00 Card: Simon Lizotte / Wildcard: James Conrad
This setup to be the most exciting card to watch. Three evenly matched players and the possible Cinderella story that is Reid Frescura. Simon Lizotte, James Conrad, Philo Brathwaite. Thru the first seven holes the scores were -2, -3, -4, and -5. Then, as usual, hole 8 reached up to end someone’s day. Frescura, who was sitting at 2 down, threw 2 OBs and carded a triple bogey seven, losing three strokes to the entire card. Bearing in mind the level of his competition, his day was effectively over.
The rest of the way out, these three disc golf mountains would trade blows, always being within one or two strokes. It would come down to the final hole. With Simon and Philo at 8 down and James Conrad one behind them, the 18th would prove critical. As the spectators and golf carts lined the fairway, Simon put down a perfect roller. He was setup for the birdie which would ensure his spot in the Finals. Philo threw to a good position and needed to navigate a cut corner of the fairway to try to put himself in position. His second shot was knocked down essentially making a par the best score he would get. Upon seeing Philo’s shot Simon said, “I was in a good position for the birdie. I said at that point I will probably win.” James Conrad, after seeing Philo’s second shot said, “I knew a birdie would put me in a good position to go to a playoff. With Zach sitting at 7 down, we knew 8 was the number. I needed the birdie. I was in the thorns off to the left when my roller did not quite stand up. My second shot did not put me in a great position but I knew my Shark 3 would give me a good chance and it flew perfectly to about 15 feet.”
From that point forward everyone executed their shots perfectly. Philo saved the par while James carded the birdie to tie him. Simon’s third shot to the very tough green was about 40 feet short. He quickly stepped up to his lie and drained the putt seeming to not even recognize the importance of the putt. The crowd, however, definitely knew. A great roar rose up and we had our fourth card winner. When asked about how quickly he putt that final putt, Simon replied, “I’ve been putting quickly for the last few weeks. I realized that rather than thinking about my putt for a long time … and miss, I would rather think about my putt for a short time … and miss.” As always, Simon keeps it real. He is looking to shoot an 11 down tomorrow and if that is good enough for the win, he will be happy. If someone beats that score, that is okay too.
To the playoff for the wildcard. James Conrad commented that the first time they played hole 1, Philo got the birdie pretty easily and James threw really wide. He just wanted to correct that. He said he took a little off his drive and let the disc work back. It landed pin high just inside circle 1. Philo then stepped up to the tee. He had this. He had not bogeyed all weekend. He got the birdie easily the first time around today. He pulled back. He released. Right out of his hand there was a collective gasp. It looked a little wide. It clipped the last tree on the right. And ricocheted OB. His day was over. As Philo said, after being the only player to go bogey free for two rounds, “Obviously disappointing to go out on my first bogey of the weekend but I’m proud to make it this far.” For Philo, the 2017 dream is over.
For five men, the dream lives on. The men will go live at 1:00 or ten minutes after the women finish, whichever comes later. We go live at noon.