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Fifth Round Added to Pro Worlds for 2018 and Beyond


Paige Pierce putts at Smugglers' Notch Resort during the 2017 Green Mountain Championship. Photo: Alyssa Van Lanen

Travelers to the PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships in September will have an extra day to see if the iconic foliage of Vermont turns early.

The PDGA Board of Directors has decided to augment the Pro Worlds format for 2018 and beyond by extending the event to five rounds, it announced today. The move first takes effect when players descend upon Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Jeffersonville, Vermont, with singles play now running from Wednesday, Sept. 5 through Sunday, Sept. 9.  

PDGA Director of Operations Mike Downes said the addition of an extra round will allow for more flexibility in dealing with inclement weather. He and the Board both pointed to 2017’s Pro Worlds in Augusta, Georgia, when a 92-minute lightning delay put the final round in peril. Without another day to complete competition, world champions would have been decided based on play in earlier rounds.

“It was right then that we realized there needed to be a change,” Downes said. “It was recognized almost right away by the players and organizers of the event.”

Downes also said that player feedback was integral to the decision. Pro Worlds had traditionally been comprised of five or six rounds prior to 2017 but shifted to last year’s four-round format after it became an Open and Open Women’s-only affair. With some competitors wanting more golf to decide a champion, a move back to five rounds finds some middle ground. There will be a cut to the field after round four.

The extended format should make the event more enticing to potential hosts as well, Downes said.

“Once we started to discuss it – the Majors and the NT committee – we recognized all of the other benefits of the extra day, which is providing extra exposure for the sponsors and another day of economic impact for the host community,” Downes said.

Pro Worlds Tournament Director Jeff Spring acknowledged that while some players might be disappointed in the quick change back to a longer format, others will rejoice as the “uniqueness” of the event returns.

Regardless, he said he’s excited at the prospect of a cut and final round, and that he and his staff at Smugglers’ Notch have big plans in store: The resort’s annual Fall Fest will take place in conjunction with the event and will feature live music, a craft beer and cider festival, glow rounds, a poker night, and a host of other recreational opportunities.

“The way we’re planning it is to be hopefully the climax of the season and a celebration of disc golf,” Spring said. “In my view, I like the position of Worlds in August or mid-August how it used to be – or even a little after...You’re building up to this. It’s not an early Major – this is a culmination of your season. I think people will be preparing for this event the whole year.”

Special lodging packages for the event are now available, and Spring encouraged both players and fans to plan their trips early before the resort sells out.

Reigning PDGA World Champion Ricky Wysocki said he welcomed the move back to a longer tournament. His 2016 title in Emporia, Kansas, spanned five rounds and a final nine, while his 2017 triumph fell under the four-round format. Extra rounds make training more intense, he said, while also keeping within the sport’s traditions.  

“I think the fact that Worlds is at five rounds definitely makes it feel more like a world championship,” Wysocki said. “Even when I won when it was shortened, it just didn’t feel right because we were used to having a marathon of five, six rounds.”

The statement from the Board, which collaborated closely with the Majors/NT Committee in making the decision, reads as follows:

The PDGA Board of Directors has unanimously voted to adjust the format of the PDGA Professional World Championships by adding a fifth round to the event. The Majors/NT Committee was unanimous in recommending this change to the Board of Directors. The overwhelming sentiment shared by players competing in the 2017 Pro Worlds in Augusta, Georgia, was that the four-round format left players wanting more. This change quells that desire, while also providing an additional day of exposure for sponsors and an implied deeper economic impact for the host community, thus making the event more attractive to potential bidders. Most importantly, this new model allows the PDGA’s flagship event more flexibility in its execution.

The PDGA staff is in full support of this change. The largest benefit of moving to a five-round event is that the host now has an extra day to make up any lost play due to inclement weather or other unplanned stoppages. With five days of scheduled competition, the added round would allow the event staff to shorten the event to four rounds if need be. In 2017, that flexibility didn’t exist because of the four-round/multiple pools format.  If the final round of competition had been canceled because of weather, due to the current construct of the event, the FPO World Champion would have been crowned based on only three rounds of play, while the MPO World Champion would have been crowned based on only the first two rounds of play. That was the last point where all had played the same layouts. This was a situation which was simply unacceptable in the eyes of the PDGA.

The new five-round format will include a cut after the fourth round. The number of players that will make the cut will be determined for each Pro Worlds individually based on various factors such as course length, field size, and stoppage considerations, but is expected to be somewhere between 40-60 percent of the field. This year’s Pro World Championships will take place at Smugglers’ Notch in Vermont, with singles play from Wednesday, Sept. 5 through Sunday, Sept. 9. The 2019 Pro World Championships will take place in August in Peoria, Illinois. 

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