Semifinal Preview – Win or Go Home Time

So it comes to this. A long and grueling season, weather cancelled events, playoffs, shocking finishes and even a walk-off ace. We’ve seen it all and we’ve got just two more days to go. And it comes to this: Win or go home. We have 16 players. Four cards. The top eight players in Tour Points and the top eight players in the Quarterfinals.

So, who has the fire to bring home the win? Let’s look at the cards.

11:30 Card: Ricky Wysocki, Gregg Barsby, James Cole, Zach Johnson.

We’ve seen Wysocki dominate, when his game his on. If he shows up with his A-Game, it is pretty much over. But he has not played this course with tournament mode turned on. He usually plays his first rounds pretty well, but in the Semis, you need to win your card or you are done. As he learned last year in the 2016 Tour Championship.

If Ricky’s A-Game is off a bit, Gregg Barsby has demonstrated that he has the skills to win a round at any time. He has been right there at at the European Open and the Vibram Open. He knows the big stage, but last year, at the Tour Championships, he blew up and did not even complete the round. A strong start would seem to be the key for Barsby.

James “Snappy” Cole started to thrill us this season at Ledgestone and Idlewild. In both cases, he started relatively slow and then made huge pushes to become a conversation for the lead card and possibly the lead. We know he has the skills, as he proved in the Tour Championship last year. On this card, he is the only player that advanced to the Finals, beating Cale Leiviska in a two hole playoff in the Semis to secure his spot. James is poised to thrill us again.

Zach Johnson is a relative unknown to this type of stage. He is a great player and has the skills, but to step up and play well three days in a row is asking a lot. He is sporting a new Zuca cart and lookin g relaxed, but picking Zach to win this card would seem like a long shot.

12:00 Card: Paul McBeth, Paul Ulibarri, Tim Barham, Austin Turner

Paul McBeth does not like to be beat. At many events he seems to start slow and then turn it on when the cards are down. The unique format of the Tour Championship puts the cards down early. Win or go home. McBeth proved last year that he had what it takes to step up right from the start, and then finish it in the Finals. The smart money would be on McBeth to win this card.

Paul Ulibarri has been playing hot for the second half of the season. Any given round he could beat anybody. Watch his early putts to see if he is playing loose. If so, expect him to give McBeth a run. If he is tight, it could be a long afternoon.

Tim Barham shot the second best score in round 1 (60) and followed it up with the hot round (56) in round 2. He is playing hot and loose and letting his skills lead the way. It would be tough to pick him to not be in the hunt as they come down the stretch.

Then there is the wild card Austin Turner. He clearly has the skills, as he has proven in his 2nd year on tour. While he has been struggling at Pro Tour events, he did just beat a very skilled field at the Nantucket Open. My guess is he played fairly conservative to ensure that he would make the cut, leaving a few C1 putts out there. If he is on, he would be a great pick to win this card, even over McBeth.

12:30: Jeremy Koling, Drew Gibson, Dana Vicich, Peter McBride

This is by far the hardest card to handicap. These four players have the widest ranges of scores over the course of an event. Drew Gibson, in the Quarters last year, cake walked into the Semis and then ran into a steamroller name Peter McBride in the Semis. Jeremy Koling, who has the skills to be in the mix at every event, finishes outside the top 10 as often as not. An “outside the top 10” round in the Semis is a quick ticket home.

And then there is Dana Vicich. In round 1, 12 people advanced. Dana got 11th. In round 2, 8 people advanced. Dana got 7th. At Utah he proved he can play with the best, even tying for the lead from the second card in the final round. But he has been more down than up this season. He is the proverbial frog holding the snakes jaws open saying, “Never Give Up!” If there is a little engine that can in the Semifinals, it is Dana Vicich.

1:00: Simon Lizotte, James Conrad, Philo Brathwaite, Reid Frescura

Simon’s first four events of the season, he got a third and four seconds. He has the skills. Does he have the killer instinct to play for the win? We have not seen it yet on the Pro Tour and we look forward to watching if tomorrow is the day he demonstrates it for the live broadcast.

James Conrad has the sneakiest distance on tour. Everyone says he is a woods player – and he is – but he also has the distance and accuracy needed to thrive at the New World course. Look for some crazy putts, amazing approaches, and ridiculous distance and look for James to be looking to get ahead early and grow from there.

Philo Brathwaite put together a good round to earn his way into the Semis. He went bogey free and missed 3 C1 putts and 5 C2 putts. He had an opportunity to put up a monster score. If Philo is on, he will be pushing James and Simon and could potentially come out on top. This is going to be an amazing trio to watch.

Oh, yeah. Reid Frescura is on the card also. He shot two five downs to earn his way into the semis. He also missed a couple C1 putts that he probably would like back. The guy can play. But it is different when you are playing with three disc golf legends in front of a live audience. Reid’s best finish is 14th. His other four finishes were outside the top 25. Statistically, he should not have a chance, but it is a one round winner moves on kind of deal. Could Reid Frescura be this year’s Peter McBride or Snappy Cole?

There is only one way to find out.
Tune in live. Saturday at Noon EST.

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