At the start of Day 2 of the Roxy Pro France, the penultimate Tour stop of the 2017 season, the hunt for the World Championship had become a three-tiered race between No. 1 Sally Fitgibbons, No. 2 Courtney Conlogue and No. 3 Tyler Wright, with the top three women finally breaking free from the chase pack along Hossegor's groomed sandbanks. If all three continued on into the Semifinal round, the stage was set for a dramatic showdown at Honolua Bay for the Maui Women's Pro, the final event of the year.
But then Lakey Peterson stepped into the mix.
Her defeat of Conlogue in the Quarterfinals has significantly altered the balance and dealt a big blow to Conlogue's World Title aspirations. The current World No. 9 Peterson has yet to lose a heat so far in the Roxy Pro and the win is further validation of her inclusion in any talk of future world championships.
As perhaps the most athletically gifted surfer on the women's tour, she continues to push progression with her aggressive above the lip attack. And her coach, Mike Parsons, looks to have corrected the one main knock against Peterson: her occasional lack of tactical awareness during heats.
With a pair of runner-up overall finishes in 2015 and 2016, Conlogue knows better than most that World Titles are won in the trenches, in the early rounds when you pull the hard yards and attack lower-ranked opposition. Yet, she was pinned back from the start against Peterson, who had her in combo-land early on.
A noted grinder who relies on grit and determination to separate herself from opponents in tight heats, the irony will not be lost on Conlogue. As is her personality, and what makes her entertaining to watch, she fought and clawed her way back into the heat late, but was unable to find the nearly excellent score required to turn the heat.
With both Fitzgibbons and Wright (surfing with a grade-two MCL tear in her right knee) advancing to the Semifinals, Conlogue will lose ground to Sally, while Tyler will gain ground or surpass her. At this point, Conlogue will need a win in Maui and significant help from her opponents to win an elusive first World Championship.