2023 European Open Preview: The Beast is Back

The biggest crowd of the year at the tour’s biggest European event.

The crowd comes out in force for the European Open. Photo: DGPT

With three of America’s four major sports leagues idle for the offseason, most of the sports world has focused on Europe. Wimbledon ended last weekend, an electric Tour de France is in full swing and golf’s 151st Open starts on Thursday. Fittingly, the 11th European Open, disc golf’s only international Major championship, also kicks off this weekend.

With the picturesque landscapes of Nokia, Finland serving as a backdrop, this prestigious event is unlike any other in the sport. Known as one of the world’s top disc golf destinations, The Beast is the favorite course of 5-time champion Paul McBeth. No player has ever won their first career Major title at this event: all previous MPO and FPO champions had won at least one Major previously.

Last year, Paige Pierce was able to overcome a two-stroke deficit in the final round to defeat Eveliina Salonen and set the record for most FPO Major wins. Unfortunately, Pierce will not be competing this year after spraining and breaking her ankle in three places while practicing for last week’s PCS Open. Paige is scheduled to have surgery next Tuesday and will likely be out for the rest of the season.

The MPO division, of course, delivered one of, if not the greatest fight in the history of the sport. Eagle McMahon averaged the highest event rating in PDGA Major history at 1074 to defeat Paul McBeth by one stroke. McMahon had missed much of the year due to injury and did not throw a single forehand during the tournament. McBeth averaged the highest losing event rating in PDGA Major history at 1072 and finished 16 strokes ahead of third place. The tournament hosted a record crowd of over 15,000 spectators throughout the weekend with over 5,000 in attendance for the final day and has continued to grow its audience year on year.

Previous winners

PDGA level Open Open women
2022 M Eagle McMahon Paige Pierce
2019 M Paul McBeth Paige Pierce
2017 M Paul McBeth Catrina Allen
2016 ONE Paul McBeth REACH
2015 M Paul McBeth Catrina Allen
2013 M Paul McBeth Paige Pierce
2011 M Dave Feldberg Valarie Jenkins
2009 M Jesper Lundmark Valarie Jenkins
2007 M And Clima Carrie Berloger
2006 M Dave Feldberg Carrie Berloger

Five things we want to see

  1. Paul McBeth has historically dominated this event, winning five straight titles between 2013 and 2019. A win this weekend would give McBeth his 18th MPO Major title, tying Ken Climo for the most in PDGA history. Last year, he turned in the best performance of his career at the Beast, only to finish one stroke behind Eagle McMahon. When Paul announced his 2023 tour schedule, many saw his Euro Tour as a planned effort to slowly step up his game for the European Open. There is no doubt that the man who won this event 5 times in a row wants it this year more than ever.
  2. Eagle McMahon defied the odds in several ways last year, overcoming injury, the Beast and the McBeast to claim his 2nd career Major title. After back-to-back 4th place finishes, his game looks solid enough to be one of the favorites this week. Surprisingly, UDisc only gives McMahon the 5th best odds to win at 8%, behind Calvin Heimburg, Ricky Wysockiand Chris Dickerson, all players who have never won this event. McBeth currently has the highest odds to win at 19%. If Eagle can subdue McBeth once more and repeat as champion, consider the legendary changing of the guard complete.
  3. A European Open title is all that remains Kristin Tattar to complete the modern disc golf grand slam. Tattar won the 2019 USWDGC, 2022 World Championship and 2023 Champions Cup. Quite satisfyingly, a win would also complete the grand slam in just her first four Major wins. Kristin would also become the first European woman and first Estonian player to win the title. While 3-time champion Paige Pierce won’t be in the field, Tattar will have plenty of competition including 2-time winner Catrina Allen. Available Henna Blomroos and Eveliina Salonen is also familiar with this track and is able to shoot hot scores on the Beast. Just last year, the Salon recorded a 1028-rated 2nd round, better than 79% of the MPO field.
  4. No player has ever won their first career major title at the European Open: Could this be the year the streak ends? Calvin Heimburg and Missy Gannon emerge as the most likely candidates to claim their first major this weekend. There are also a number of previous major winners in both divisions who have yet to win this event, including Ricky Wysocki, Chris Dickerson, Isaac Robinson, James Conrad, Sarah Hokom, Eveliina Salonenand of course, Kristin Tattar.
  5. On Wednesday, the 11th President’s Cup takes place, a team event pitting Team USA against Team Europe. Nate Sexton will serve as Team USA captain for the 2nd time in his career, while Dane KJ Nybo will captain Team Europe for the second year in a row. Team USA has never lost this event, but the spread has grown closer and closer each year. While Team Europe should see a boost from the addition of Kristin Tattar, even without Paige Pierce, Team USA has arguably their most talented squad to date.

The course

The beast was designed by Discmania founder Jussi Meresmaa and is a crown jewel in the sport of disc golf. The front 9 holes are heavily wooded and require a variety of tee shots, with the back 9 offering more OB and water hazards. Traditionally, the same layout has been used for both the MPO and FPO divisions, but this year the FPO layout will play shorter and two strokes easier to par.

For the MPO, there are few changes: Hole 7 has a new tee and measures 40 feet longer (12 meters) this year and hole 14 measures 33 feet longer (10 meters).

The FPO changes begin on hole 2, which has been shortened from 381 feet (116 meters) to 312 feet (95 meters). Hole 3 has been shortened from 863 feet (263 meters) to 787 feet (240 meters). Hole 11 has been shortened from 394 feet (120 meters) to 331 feet (101 meters). Hole 17 has been shortened from 459 feet (140 meters) to 361 feet (110 meters). The par changes come on hole 15, which was increased to a par 4, and hole 18, which goes from a par 4 to a par 5. These changes should lead to far more birdie opportunities for the division and an eagle opportunity on 18 . . .

2023 MPO: 9,167 feet (2,794 meters) Par 63
2022 MPO: 9,091 feet (2,771 meters) Par 63

2023 FPO: 8,825 feet (2,690 meters) Par 65
2022 FPO: 9,091 feet (2,771 meters) Par 63

Extended forecast

Rain and thunderstorms threaten as the weekend progresses. Hopefully most thunderstorms can steer clear and not threaten weather delays.

Thursday: Partly cloudy, with a high near 70. Winds 5-10 mph.
Friday: Scattered showers, with gusts as high as 70. Winds 5-10 mph. Chance of rain 50%.
Saturday: Scattered thunderstorms with high winds in the upper 60s. Wind 5-10 mph. Chance of rain 80%.
Sunday: Scattered thunderstorms with highs in the upper 60s. Wind 5-10 mph. Chance of rain 60%.

  1. Justin Westfall

    Justin Westfall

    Justin Westfall is a contributor at Ultiworld Disc Golf who enjoys living in Southern California where he can play disc golf year round. Outside of the course, he works in the film industry and is proud to be a lifelong Buffalo Bills fan. You can find Justin on Twitter and Instagram @PDGAStats.

MARKED: PDGA FPO, PDGA MPO, 2023 European Open, European Open

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