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Unlike our Women’s Performance of the Year – Valarie Jenkins was a runaway winner, with 80 percent of our staff picking her Worlds victory over other standout events – choosing the Men’s Performance of the Year was a much more difficult task.
With showings that were steady – Ricky Wysocki’s never-bite-off-more-than-you-can-chew Worlds win, for example – stellar – Simon Lizotte’s improbable comeback and subsequent victory after a three-way playoff at the Konopiste Open – and surprising – Bradley Williams winning the Vibram, anyone? – the Open Men’s division gave us a cornucopia of memorable events from which to choose. Our staff votes were ultimately split among five different performances, highlighting both the quality of play and the compelling storylines throughout the season.
Ultimately, though, one performance – by disc golf’s most electrifying performer – took the top prize.
Paul McBeth’s comeback victory at the European Open in Nokia, Finland – in which he trailed by five strokes entering the final round of play and went absolutely unconscious en route to his first win in months – was our pick for Men’s Performance of the Year.
It was a throwback win for McBeth, who struggled through injuries early in the 2016 season and was, by his standards, off. Rather than settle, though, he switched his putting style to a straddle, buckled down, and went all in.
Ten straight birdies from holes 5-14 saw him chipping away at the comfortable five stroke margin Wysocki had built over the prior two rounds. As McBeth soared, his competition still played strongly, but simply couldn’t overcome the torrent of precision and putting that elevated the four-time world champion to the top of the podium.
Looking back at the event this week, McBeth said he thrived off the pressure of the situation.
“It’s just do or die on every shot, basically,” McBeth said. “When you’re that far back you’ve gotta press, press, press, and if you make a mistake you’re out of it. But if you keep pursuing and fighting, you’re gonna give yourself a chance and up your percentages to come back. I think it’s that ‘I can’t make a mistake’ mentality that’s really fun.”
McBeth also praised the Finnish fans, who are known for coming out in droves to major events and providing a more intense feel than at stateside tournaments.
“The energy is different,” McBeth said. “You can feel it more because there’s so many more people. You can feel the excitement when things are close. You can feel it a lot more over there because they’re paying a lot more attention. They’re not doing the side games and all of that. It’s a different energy.”
While McBeth had fewer of these Open-like performances this season than in years past, the comeback was a display of how truly dominant McBeth can be, and how high his highs truly are. With a full offseason of health, it’ll be fun to see where 2017 takes him.
Originally published at: https://discgolf.ultiworld.com/2016/11/10/mens-performance-year-paul-mcbeths-european-open-comeback/