Potential Cinderella stories at the 2022 World Championships

Gregg Barsby is one of the most unlikely world champions in disc golf history. He finished outside the top 10 of the Disc Golf Pro Tour and National Tour rankings in the 2018 season. He was ranked 1020 at the time he won his first and only major. Indeed, it may have been by sheer force of will of the “Barsbarians” that Barsby won the 2018 title.

Cinderella stories often attract the attention of casual and committed fans. There are three players this year who are most likely to play Cinderella at prom this year.

The odds on favourite: Isaac Robinson

Isaac Robinson, winner of the 2022 LWS Open in Idlewild. Photo: DGPT.

What to love…

Since turning pro in 2016, Isaac Robinson has been a fringe player at the elite level of disc golf. As a full-time student he regularly competes at the Ledgestone Open, but 2022 is his first full season on tour.

Robinson has shown key champion qualities now that he is on the road full time. His win at the LWS Open at Idlewild of course demonstrated his ability to win at the highest level of the sport, even with cameras trained on him and big names trying to chase him down. Robinson also has a strong major track record with an 8th place finish at USDGC last year to his name. It is rated 1033 and finds itself 19th in the DGPT ranking. That’s a solid CV considering his limited touring and he has all the tools needed to have a championship week at Emporia.

The hesitations…

Isaac Robinson is a fantastic putter and his success this week will require dialing on the green. Unfortunately for Robinson, that may not be enough yet. The most tested skill at Emporia is your performance from the start. While a 76% fairway shot percentage is good for the 7th on tour, his C1 (38% – 63rd) and C2 (62% – 66th) in regulation leave a lot to be desired. Also, while he manages to keep it on the fairway often, a 51% scramble rate won’t be enough on a set of courses where OB is unavoidable.

The favorite on these courses: Ella Hansen

What to love…

Ella Hansen is one of the flashiest players on the circuit. The ultimate convert came from the professional side of the sport during the COVID year and appropriately joined the Discmania team, home of the crushing boys, as the best (and basically only) FPO player. Known for her elite to ultimate distance, Hansen converted her superior discus throwing skills to become the FPO division’s longest thrower.

Its distance translates into success on the course when the track is designed with distance as the primary feature. This season alone, Hansen has an impressive resume on the bomber courses:

Las Vegas Challenge – 6th
Play It Again Sports Jonesboro Open – 3rd
Open dynamic disks – 3rd
OTB Open – 4th
The Preservation Championship – T2nd

As you can see, his first trip to Emporia this year ended with a podium finish. With Jones Supreme new to the tour this year, Hansen’s inexperience won’t be such a big factor against courses that have long been staples on the tour.

The hesitations…

Ella Hansen is still new to the game of disc golf. This inexperience shows in the more technical aspects of her game. While she ranks in the top 25 in most of her stats, Hansen is 45th on tour of C1X (69%) and 39th on tour of C2 (12 %). Putting may not even be his Achilles heel this weekend. Hansen herself has said in interviews that her results/short game is her biggest weakness. On a set of courses that feature more than a few dangerous greens, Hansen can find herself quickly out of action if she fails to capitalize on her superior driving game with sloppy approaches.

The best European competitor: Niklas Anttila

What to love…

The start of this year brought a lot of anticipation around the European competitors. While the women’s side lived up to the hype, the men’s side was a bit lackluster (with the exception of Simon Lizotte). There are a few European men who could fill this niche, but Niklas Anttila has a few advantages over his European counterparts. First of all, he is the reigning European champion in disc golf. The European Disc Golf Championships, although not a major, enjoy prestige on the European stage and demonstrate significant mental toughness needed to win in high pressure situations. Additionally, his rating of 1030 is the highest of the Europeans and in a five-round tournament, the rating is often an accurate predictor of the outcome. Finally, his strongest skill is the first circle in regulation, which places him at 24th (39%) in tour.

The hesitations…

We haven’t yet had a European MPO player not named Simon for a win in the United States in over 10 years.1 It would take a lot of things going well for Anttila to perform at the level needed to win a tournament in five sets. Last year, James Conrad averaged 1062 over five sets in his world title tournament. Anttila is only three laps on his current rating above that mark. To fire five shots at this level would require a Herculean effort.

Michael C. Ford