Today the 2022 PDGA Disc Golf World Championship kicks off in Emporia, Kansas. Worlds is the biggest event in our sport, and after last year’s “Holy Shot” and phenomenal playoff finish,
there is a tangible buzz in the air leading up to this year’s MPO event. The drama of last year’s event and the pandemic have drawn a lot of new eyes to professional disc golf.
So whether you are new to Worlds or you’ve been following since the Ken Climo days, here are some names and narratives to follow as you take in all 5 rounds of the high disc flying action this week.
Ricky Wysocki enters Worlds as one of if not the presumptive favorite to win the event and make himself a 3x World Champion. He has had an excellent 2022 season on tour with wins at Texas States, Ledgestone, and DDO, the latter was of course played on the same courses he will be navigating this week in Emporia.
There are lots of narratives to keep tabs on when watching Ricky this year. Emporia, Kansas hosted Worlds just six years ago in 2016, which is the year Ricky broke through the glass ceiling
to finally win his first World Championship after finishing as runner-up in 3 of the previous 4 years. And let’s not forget whose plastic he was throwing and will be throwing now—For the
2016 season, Ricky left his long time sponsor Prodigy Disc to join Team Latitude 64 and switch his bag over to Trilogy (Latitude 64, Westside Discs, and Dynamic Discs). Dynamic Discs is
headquartered in Emporia, Kansas. After winning another World Championship with Latitude 64 in 2017, in 2019 Ricky Wysocki switched disc sponsors again and joined Team Innova, only to switch sponsors again at the beginning of this 2022 season. What team does Ricky represent now? Dynamic Discs, meaning Ricky is back to throwing the same plastic he was throwing when he won his two previous Worlds. Oh, and perhaps you’ve heard of his rival…
You can’t spell Disc Golf World Championship without Paul McBeth. While McBeth hasn’t been as dominant in recent years (BTW, I’d take 2015 McBeth over peak Jordan or Woods any day of the week, but especially on Sundays), he is still the biggest name in the sport, and it would be a tragic mistake to overlook him. In every Worlds since 2012, Paul has finished as either the
champion or the runner-up. He is a 5x World Champion for a reason, and I guarantee McBeast is one of if not the biggest concern for anyone who has hopes for taking home the crown this week.
Some folks might try to make a big deal about Paul’s poor performance in Emporia earlier this year at DDO where he missed the cut for the first time ever in his career, but this feels negligible to me for a player of Paul’s caliber. He also finished runner-up at Worlds in Emporia just six years ago.
Rather, the biggest narrative I’m following this week with Paul is the revenge narrative. He knows as well as the rest of the world that he was one miraculous “Holy Shot” away from taking
home his sixth world title last year. The James Conrad throw in has overall been framed as a positive for the world of disc golf—it brought eyes and attention to disc golf and has been a
resource to “grow the sport” as we say. But all of this growth and positivity has been at Paul’s expense, and not a day goes by that he isn’t reminded of it. The comment he made off the cuff
about losing worlds to an only backhand player when he was asked at the European Open about Eagle McMahon only throwing backhand shots due to injury shows me just how present last
year’s Worlds are in McBeth’s psyche. Will he be able to reign that emotion and energy in and perform when it’s go time? Looking at how Worlds has gone for the past decade, I think the odds are in his favor.
If you told me neither Ricky or Paul were going to win Worlds this year, Simon Lizotte is one of the two player’s I’d have to pick as my next favorite. Simon has been around and played well
over the years, but he seems to be getting hot at just the right time as he is coming off a DGPT Tour win at the Des Moines Challenge just two weeks ago. Simon brings spunk and flair that make him so much fun to watch and an instant fan favorite. Even if he doesn’t win, I can’t help hoping he is at least in the mix down the stretch so that we can watch the creative lines and power throws that only Simon can provide.
The main narrative around Simon this week is maybe an easy one, but it is still very significant for the sport of Disc Golf—Simon Lizotte would become the first ever non-American to win the
Disc Golf World Championships. Simon hails from Bremen, Germany, and his success on tour has already been a huge reason why disc golf is growing like crazy in Europe. Adding Simon to
the list of World Champions would surely give young players from around the world an example to look to as they dream and carve their own path in professional disc golf.
Speaking of young players, teenager Gannon Buhr is the second player I referred to above as one of my favorites to win Worlds outside of Ricky and Paul. It feels more like a question of “when” rather than “if” for Gannon Buhr and the Disc Golf World Championship. His well-documented work ethic is phenomenal, and he has been on a tear this year on tour with fifteen (!!!) top ten finishes.
The big narrative around Gannon is going to be his age, but more important than his age to me is his ability to win at this level—not perform, but win. He has already proven he is more than
capable of playing disc golf at the highest of levels, but has he learned how to win yet? This is a question of nerve and the mental game that is found in all forms of golf, not just disc golf. The
ability to play with and maintain a lead or chase down a lead and win events is a learned skill that is nearly impossible to learn anywhere else but in the arena itself. With just one Silver Series win under his belt this year, has Gannon been there enough times to have learned what it takes to win on the biggest stage in Disc Golf?
The reigning World Champion and author of the greatest shot in disc golf history is James Conrad, and while his 2022 season hasn’t been the showcase Conrad or his fans might have
hoped for, he is still playing fantastic disc golf and performing week in and week out at a consistently high level. Conrad wasn’t a favorite by many going into Worlds last year, and I’m
sure he feels just fine about you or anyone else not thinking he is a favorite again this year. Conrad knows his game and knows that if he sticks to it, he’s got more than a decent chance to
be in the mix at the end of the week.
One (lazy) narrative of course is whether or not James will be just another “one-time champion” (only 6 disc golfers have won multiple World Championships), but I think the more fun narrative that people are going to be watching for because of James’s magical shot last year is what magic will happen this year? Conrad put on a show that will likely be impossible to top this year, but we as fans can’t help ourselves from looking for and hoping for something just as insane to unfold. And even better—it would be a real treat to see it come from James Conrad again.
If Eagle weren’t battling through injury this year, he’d easily be one of the favorites to take home his first Worlds. In some ways, Eagle is “due” for his World Championships moment. It was just
a few years ago that his narrative looked a lot like Gannon Buhr’s, and Eagle has proven time and again that he is more than capable of winning at the highest level, including a phenomenal performance to beat McBeth at this year’s European Open.
The narrative with Eagle is inevitably his injury and how it’s impacted his play style. Eagle has always possessed a powerful forehand shot, but he has completely put that on the shelf for now
and instead has developed a serviceable left-handed backhand shot. In today’s game, it is widely believed that you need to have all kinds of shots in your quiver in order to play and win
consistently at the highest levels. Eagle winning Worlds without throwing a forehand shot one year after James did the same would be a really intriguing throwback to the earlier days of the
Dark Horse Players to Watch
Speaking of a variety of shots, don’t forget about “The Dark Horse” himself. It has been incredible to watch how quickly Brodie has made the transition from ultimate to disc golf.
Brodie isn’t just a youtuber who came to play disc golf to seek out fresh content for his channel. Brodie is a competitor, and that competitor’s drive has already made him into a real threat to the guys who have been playing the sport for decades longer.
Some things to keep in mind with Brodie Smith this week—Brodie’s best finish ever on the DGPT came at this year’s DDO where he finished tied for third. As was previously mentioned,
The courses played at DDO are the same courses where Worlds will be played. He is definitely a long shot to win Worlds, but it is hard not to think about the impact a guy with the social media
presence Brodie has winning this event would have on the growth of the sport. Also, if you are into the drama, apparently Brodie and Paul McBeth have had a pretty big falling out and haven’t been too shy about it online. I’m sure the tension will be thick should they find themselves on the same card at any point this week.
Kevin Jones is another young athletic competitor that can’t ever be overlooked. People forget he was right in the mix late at last year’s Worlds in Ogden. When you watch Kevin, it is clear he
has all the tools to put himself in position to win Worlds.
One narrative with Kevin that is also at play with Gannon Buhr surrounds his sponsor, Prodigy Disc. Prodigy has sponsored several FPO World champions, but no MPO World Championship
has ever been won with discs manufactured by Prodigy. When Prodigy launched in 2012 they attracted a lot of the top pros in the game to join their team and throw their discs, but an MPO
victory at worlds has always just evaded Team Prodigy. One year after Team MVP got their first World Championship, maybe it is finally Prodigy’s turn to print “World Champion” on a few of
Drew Gibson is a young power thrower who chased down Gannon Buhr from two strokes down with two to play at the 2022 Las Vegas Challenge in one of the most entertaining finishes of the year. While Drew doesn’t boast hold the same resume that some of the other competitors we’ve highlighted do, his big arm can do a lot of damage on the long, open courses in Emporia. That power and his ability to chase down a lead will make him a name no other competitor wants to see near the top of the leaderboard going into the final rounds.
Another interesting sponsorship narrative surrounds Drew this week as he is part of team Infinite Discs. Infinite Discs is one of the very few topflight sponsorship teams that have an open bag policy—meaning their team members are permitted to throw any discs they want regardless of their manufacturer. If Drew were to win Worlds with a mixed bag, it would inevitably add legitimacy to the mixed bag approach to the professional game that we really haven’t seen at any other time in the sport.
Other Names That Can’t be Overlooked
Gregg was a bit of a surprise World Championship winner in 2018. He won the PCS Sula Open in Norway a few weeks ago. Could that have been the warm up win he needed to make a run at his second world title?
Chris Dickerson, Calvin Heimberg, Anthony Barela, Kyle Klein
Let’s call this group the group of young players who have been on lead and chase cards all season long that nobody would be surprised to see at the top of the leaderboard at any point this
week. Chris Dickerson and Calvin Heimberg have especially been dominant lately earning spots at number 3 and 5 respectively on Udisc’s World Rankings.
Matthew Orum, Bradley Williams
A couple of tour veterans that have been making a splash on tour this season as well. Matthew Orum finished runner-up at Worlds to Nate Doss back in 2005. And Bradley Williams got his
second DGPT victory ever this year at the Preserve. That victory came exactly 6 years after winning the first ever DGPT event in a playoff at the Vibram Open (anyone remember chipmunkgate?). It would be really satisfying to see either of these two put on a show this week.
Eric Oakley, Emerson Keith, Garrett Gurthie, Paul Ulibarri
Four talented golfers who I just have a good feeling about. This is what’s so fun about the
increased parity and talent pool we’ve seen in disc golf recently. Everyone is playing at such a
high level. Worlds is traditionally a longer event in order to demand consistent high level play to earn the title of world champion. But more than ever before, this is anyone’s world to win.
I sincerely wish good luck to all the competitors. Live rounds can be watched on Disc Golf
Network and followed live at Udisc Live.
Photos provided by Disc Golf Pro Tour