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McBeth Continues Mastery of Eureka, Seizes Pro Worlds Lead

Paul McBeth leapfrogged Emerson Keith in the middle of round three of the 2019 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships at Lake Eureka. Photo: Alyssa Van Lanen

PEORIA, Ill.—Emerson Keith played nearly flawless disc golf for 41 holes of the 2019 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships. When the 42nd came on Thursday, his long approach on the tightly roped, 897-foot 6th at Lake Eureka hop-skipped out of bounds to lead to a bogey. It was a forgivable mistake on the course’s most difficult hole, but with Paul McBeth on your heels you only have so much room for grace.

So when Keith tossed another second shot OB—this time as he approached the narrow mouth of hole 8’s green—it left a crack in the door for the four-time PDGA World Champion who was giving chase. And when Keith ran the basket with his in-bound attempt to save bogey and then watched his putter roll into the water on the other side of the peninsula, that crack quickly transformed into a wide pathway for McBeth.

“I was just feeling it when I got up there—I’m more of a feel it player,” Keith said. “If I’m feeling that putt, whether it’s dangerous or not, I’m just gonna make it. And unfortunately this time it bit me and I didn’t make it.”

McBeth capitalized on the opportunity with a birdie on the same hole to give him a three-stroke swing, and he took it and ran all the way to the top of the leaderboard with an 11-under par 52 at Lake Eureka. His three-day total is now at a 32-under par 158, putting him four shots over Keith after the 21-year-old battled back with six birdies on the back nine to finish the round at 6-down.

The 1080-rated performance put McBeth in the driver’s seat as he pursues his fifth world title.

“I think double digits [under par] is my goal for each round,” McBeth said. “I really want to get to 50-under for the tournament.”

As much as Keith may have provided an opening, McBeth made his own fortune. He saved early pars with outside-the-circle connections after OB drives and has continued to assail the Peoria fairways to pace the field in both circle 1 (67%) and circle 2 in regulation (78%).

The irony of those statistics lies in McBeth’s approach to hole 15: He was in circle 1 in regulation on the 315-foot par 3 and was looking for an easy deuce. But a lapse in focus found him walking away with a bogey.

“I was literally tired of putting at that point, and I was walking up with not the right mindset,” McBeth admitted. “I didn’t feel like I was putting the disc close enough leading up to that point and it was frustration because I threw the disc poorly off the tee shot…I should have just stepped away and regrouped.”

Keith, while disappointed to drop down a slot in the standings, was proud of the way he battled back from the early-round adversity and was ready to assume the role of hunter instead of hunted.

“I think it takes like 90% of the pressure off my back,” Keith said. “I think I can just—what do I have to lose? I’m the underdog in the tournament. No one expected me to be right here…I think I’ve got it tomorrow.”

The Open field takes one more crack at Northwood Friday. McBeth shot incredibly clean there during round two, but he wasn’t going to build in room for errors during round 4. If anything, he’s aiming even higher.

“I think just starting off a bit better, getting a few more birdies on the front half [will be important],” McBeth said. “That’s really where the scoring is for everyone….Just kind of wake up sooner on that course.”

Kevin Jones and James Conrad moved back up to the lead card with their 10-under and 9-under par performances, respectively, at Lake Eureka, which makes for a repeat showing of the top foursome at Northwood. Jones is looking to rebound from a 3-under par showing there on Wednesday.

“I was just a little bit off [during round two], wasn’t feeling quite myself and unfortunately you’ve got to be on your stuff at Northwood,” Jones said. “So I plan tomorrow to get some good sleep, wake up, drink a lot of water and I’ll be on my stuff.”

Chris Dickerson climbed up 13 spots and into fifth place at 22-under for the tournament, but the biggest move of the day came from Eagle McMahon. The 21-year-old Coloradan rebounded from a 997-rated second round at Northwood with a 14-under par course record at Lake Eureka to rocket up 24 spots and into a tie for 15th place.

“Disc golf is a very strange game,” McMahon said. “To be honest, last night was not a very good night. I wasn’t feeling too good seeing my name in 39th place, so coming out here I didn’t have any expectations. I just kinda told myself, ‘Just throw each and every shot,’ and I don’t know—14-under happened. I’m definitely happy about it, but still confused. Gotta take the good with the bad, I guess.”

The round is currently rated at 1101 and is the second-highest rating of McMahon’s career after his 1108 during the final round of the 2019 Las Vegas Challenge. If the number holds up it will register as the fifth-best round for a course with a scratch scoring average in the 60-65.99 range.

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