The 2022 Las Vegas Challenge was a fantastic tournament. I mean, the first one of the year always gets the blood flowing right?
Gannon Buhr gave a show of what’s to come the next 10-15 years and was outlasted by Drew Gibson in the end after a playoff. Extra holes in disc golf are always intense. A simple mistake can end a promising tournament, a big putt could win it. It’s certainly got a heightened air of anticipation from the crowd.
FPO essentially had playoff disc golf. On the very last hole of the tournament 5X Paige Pierce and 2X Catrina Allen were tied. After they both completed their drives in bounds on the par 5, Catrina executed a safe second shot where she could upshot and then putt for birdie.
Paige took her time, measured her shot with her Bushnell Rangefinder, lined it up, and threw an aggressive throw with her Zeus. The disc was early released uphill and went OB. She had a blind 90 foot comebacker chance to tie, but Catrina laid up and took the win by a single stroke.
I’m 853 rated. That’s a full 125 points behind Paige Pierce, one of the most dominant FPO players of all time. I’m a big fan of Paige’s, and in fact I pay her on Patreon for a video critique of my form every couple of months. This is definitely an armchair QB blog from me, but I felt like it was worth exploring.
Before I started writing this blog I was engaging with someone on Facebook in the Disc Golf Debate Group who said that Paige shouldn’t have gone for it and that it was a bad decision, statistically.
It’s an interesting idea for me. I believe that shooters shoot, you don’t win laying it up when you have the chance to win right there. When you lose confidence, it’s over. That’s why when I coached soccer I would encourage players to shoot in practice. Give them confidence.
BUT I also believe in statistics. In sports it’s important to know what works a majority of the time but we’re humans, we trust our gut.
What do the stats say?
In their careers, Catrina and Paige have played in playoffs 9 times against one another and Catrina has the edge 6 wins to Paige’s 3. Edge Catrina.
The playoff holes are 1,3,5,7,17,18 and on again until there is a winner and a loser.
This was the Innova course played on days 2 and 4 of the Las Vegas Challenge. So let’s see how the players did on those.
Hole 1- Tie. They both birdied it once and they both par’d once.
Hole 3- Catrina took 4 strokes over Paige getting two birdies to Paige’s bogey.
Hole 5- Catrina took a stroke from Paige. Edge Catrina here.
Hole 7- Catrina took 3 strokes over Paige, with 2 birdies.
Hole 17- Catrina with 2 birdies, Paige with a birdie and bogey.
Hole 18- Tie. Slight edge to Paige, who could probably have gotten up and down for 4 on the last hole.
I think it’s pretty clear from these stats that Paige made the right call to go for it. She had the position ahead of the card and saw that her opponent laid up. Catrina was playing those playoff holes even with Paige or better in the first 5 playoff holes so she probably felt pretty comfortable letting it go to extras.
The throw was just offline by a little bit. The distance looked pretty solid though, maybe it would have landed outside the edge of Circle 1? It would have put the pressure on Catrina to either lay it up and hope Paige missed. Or for Catrina to run it and possibly have a rollaway back down the hill. Or maybe Paige hits a 36 foot putt to win, it’s not like she hasn’t hit thousands of putts at that distance before.
I don’t know if Paige and her caddie, Jo Henderson discussed what to do on the second shot. They certainly had a few minutes to decide when she was on the tee, and then while they waited for the chase card to finish putting out. Paige and Jo are co hosts on the Approachable podcast presented by Jomez. If you read my blog about caddies last summer you’d know I’m in favor of them. I think top disc golfers should have someone they trust to rely on while playing, and a good caddy would know ahead of time what the player should do in scenarios like tied going into the last hole.
If Paige made her second second shot in bounds and then made her 35 foot putt to win the narrative would have been something about Catrina playing too safe with the tournament on the line. Disc golf can be fickle like that.
Maybe Paige felt with her gut that this was her moment to win it outright. Maybe she liked the wind, or maybe she knew that the stats suggested she was not going to beat Catrina in this playoff. Whatever her reasons, I think she made the right choice there.
May your discs miss all the trees,
Andrew Streeter #70397