I’d like to plead the case for bringing back the Final 9. A wonderful part of disc golf history that’s been lost over the last 5 years. This blog is going to explain what it is and why I think we should bring back the Final 9 to our sport. I want this for both MPO and FPO for the World Championships. The best players deserve an extra spotlight and chance to shine. Giving them an additional 9 holes with a large gallery seems like a no brainer to me.
What exactly is a Final 9?
A Final 9 is played by the top 4 players at the end of the rounds of a tournament. Once all score cards are turned in the top 4 players will compete for an additional 9 holes. They cannot fall below 4th even if they bogey all the holes. Though this generally doesn’t happen, because they are the top 4 players.
One unique thing about some Final 9’s is that they may be safari holes. Safari holes are holes where the teepad and disc basket may not line up for normal play. You can throw from hole 1’s teepad to hole 3’s basket. It leads to shots that I find very exciting to watch. Longer holes, different lines, it leads to hero shots and difficult scrambles. At least that’s been my experience in local final 9’s. In the pro worlds they seem to have just replayed certain difficult holes over again.
I don’t know how or why the practice of playing Final 9’s ended. The only mention I could find of it is in a DGCourseReview thread. Some suggest it’s because players don’t want to wait around for their payouts. Some think 36 holes is enough to decide a winner in a 2 round tournament. I haven’t found a concrete reason other than this response from Holly Finley to my tweet.
Pros play 18 holes per day at worlds. Yes they have a warm up as well, but honestly I don’t think adding 9 more holes should be that big a deal for MPO and FPO. Playing 2 rounds a day is common in local B and C tiers. There used to be 2 full rounds per day at Worlds in the earlier rounds. I don’t think asking 9 more holes is that big of a deal. Now it’s a small sample size, but look at this Twitter poll from November.
Disc golf has classic moments in the sports history that we’ll all remember. McBeth’s first -18 round, Climo winning the first ever EURGC by 15 strokes (still the record), Elaine King with the shot of the 2003 Worlds. The playoff for the 2014 world championships with Paul and Ricky is one of those moments.
If you’re unfamiliar with the classic championships from 2014 here’s a link to the Final 9. The playoff begins after the Final 9 ends tied. In my opinion this is some of the best disc golf ever played, you need to watch this!
Without a Final 9 the Paul vs. Ricky moment wouldn’t exist. After they had played 7 rounds Ricky Wysocki was ahead by 2 strokes! Look at the rounds pictured. After the Semis, Ricky was sitting on 373 strokes and Paul was at 375.
Now it doesn’t always work out to be the most amazing finish of all time. The next year, 2015 Paul would go on to win by 9 strokes, after having a 12 stroke lead over Ricky going into the Final 9.
In 2016 Ricky was beating Paul by 5 strokes going into the Final 9 before he won by 6 strokes. I am not in any way suggesting it always leads to dramatic finishes. But it can help create it.
There’s drama and tension in Final 9’s. It’s the world championships, the most coveted title in our sport and people know they can’t fall below 4th. How cool would it be to see someone taking only risky lines on the long par 4’s and 5’s trying to Eagle or birdie in a final push for a title?
If disc golf is looking to enter the market space of traditional television then the Final 9 would be perfect.
Boy that’s a big statement Streeter. Why do you think that?
Disc golf finishes on Saturdays in the summer, it’s over before dark, and what else are people watching on ESPN at that time? The summertime is when basketball and hockey are done, football hasn’t started, and baseball has lots of night games. If you’re looking for a sport that’s easy to follow, has great commentary, and will fill those summer hours of live sports, get at it @ESPN.
Live coverage of disc golf rounds take 3+ hours. Post-produced coverage of those rounds can take it down to 1 hour and 10 minutes (Jomez / CCDG / GK / TerryMiller). Now you have to condense it even more for television because it’s going to a 1 hour slot that’s actually 42 minutes of tv and 18 minutes of commercials.
Remember when we watched the CBS coverage and they basically played it as highlight clips? I didn’t love it at all. If you have a live Final 9 you can show MPO and FPO teeing off at the same time. You can slip in advertisements aplenty (which you need to have for television).
The Final 9 could be the answer to what we’re looking for. It’s going to take this foursome about an hour/hour and a quarter to play this Final 9. I’m a sports fan and if there’s one thing I think we can all agree on is we love tension in sports. Extra innings in baseball, Extra Time in soccer, Overtime in any sport, Playoff hole in golf, it’s all amazing. If I see that it’s overtime of a sport I don’t watch and I’m channel surfing, I want to watch it.
So if we know it’s going to take 1-2 hours and you have MPO and FPO playing at the same time. You have plenty of content to fill the time with. You have a pretty good guess at when it will end, and there’s built in room for commercials.
I don’t know why the Final 9 ended, but I sure as heck want it back. It’s given one of the best disc golf moments ever, it’s perfect drama for television, and it’s a part of this sports history that we should bring back.
Are you a fan of Final 9’s, or has the sport moved past that? Either way let me know in the comments.
May your discs miss all the trees,
Andrew Streeter #70397
Hey Curt you bring up a couple of great points. First, it is impossible to practice the safari layout. It’s not impossible really, but it is difficult. However these are the best players in the world, they know what they should and shouldn’t do.
A runaway victory would be bad for tv. Yes, Paul being ahead by 12 strokes going into the final 9 in 2015 was a victory lap. But it’s not the norm! Only 4 world championships have had a margin of victory of double digits. A safari course offers chances for 2 stroke swings on a hole. I think more often than not it would be entertaining.
I couldn’t find Chuck Kennedy’s article on the final 9 but if you could link it I would love to read it! I respect #4949’s ideas, and I enjoyed meeting him last year.
The last point I’d like to thank someone on Facebook for bringing up. No one wants to see the winner come from the chase card. It’s uncommon, but with fewer rounds being played at worlds than in previous years there’s less room to separate. It happened in 2020 though at WACO with Colten Montgomery. This would eliminate that possibly happening.
I appreciate your comment Curt. And as someone who has played in a final 9 it definitely carries some weight. I think I still believe it has something to offer the sport when worlds has fewer than 5 rounds.
I recall Chuck Kennedy wrote an article detailing why the Final 9 should be removed from play. He cited event statistics demonstrating how rare a meaningful Final 9s was. I believe it was around the time that Worlds was shortened and 3 rounds were recommended over 4 for elite events. This was all done in an effort to have more exciting final rounds – run away victories are bad for TV. Though, in the years since this article was published, the field has grown more competitive. There would be nothing worse for TV than a boring 9 hole victory lap with 2 or 3 players forced to show pony.
Having played in a Final 9, I’d vote against it as a part of a PDGA event. The safari holes were impossible to practice before hand. The 9 holes extended the event for all players by hours.