In what could only be described as a dream scenario, Manotick,Ontario’s Brad Fritsch regained his full status for the 2014 PGA TOUR on Sunday with an impressive charge at the WEB.COM Tour Championship.
Fritsch entered this week having missed each of the cuts in the first three WEB.COM Tour Finals, a series of four tournaments to determine the final 50 members of the 2014 PGA TOUR. To get to the 50 he needed to climb from the very bottom.
With that being the case the former Campbell University golfer had no choice but to finish at least 6th place or better at the final WEB.COM Tour event at the TPC Sawgrass Dye’s Valley Course in Ponte Vedra, Florida.
It was a tall order but Fritsch put himself in position after three rounds (t-23), and came out fast on Sunday with three birdies to open play.
“You can’t ask for a better start than that,” Fritsch conveyed to us after the round as he was driving from Florida to Atlanta for a Monday sponsor outing. “That was the key. I’m saying it gave me breathing room but I knew I had to make at least four or five birdies for the day so it was a good way to start.”
He added two more birdies by the eighth hole and, after a double bogey 6 on hole #9, made the turn in 33 strokes to push him into the mix for a card.
That position was strengthened on the back side of the course as he repeated his opening on the front and reeled off three straight birdies on holes 10-12.
A bogey on the 14h hole set Brad back a little and when his approach fell short of the green on the difficult 17th, he again had some issues. “It was part nerves and part I teed it up too much,” said the 35 year-old pro of his 3rd shot on the hole, a chip that fell well short of it’s intended target and was caught on television coverage. With lift, clean and place in play due to wet conditions, Brad says his lie was just a little “too good.”
“It really wasn’t a shot that I had hit all week. It wasn’t my best.”
A couple shots that did qualify for top status were Brad’s drives on the closing holes, especially the 18th were a solid strike from the tee found the fairway and set-up a fairly easy approach. It was welcomed as he was aware he likely needed no worse than a bogey to return full-time to the PGA TOUR in 2014.
He pulled them off courtesy of a three wood (a Titleist 913F) he added to his bag this year, one he admitted might now be his go-to club. “I kind of had some lingering doubts there (on the 18th hole tee shot) but I told myself it was just time to believe that it was the perfect club. I’ve been ripping that thing for the last four months so I just went ahead and swung. I didn’t have that shot last year; I pretty much had to hit a driver or hybrid. It’s good to have.”
The result for Brad was a fairly routine 9 iron into the final green, one he executed efficiently from 163 yards. “The last couple holes were downwind so that made them a little easier. It’s a tough finish.”
As much as fans might have liked to see Brad make the birdie putt, he says he didn’t try to get too cute with it. “I would have liked to make a better stroke on that but there was no sense being too aggressive.”
Ultimately Brad made an improbable 9 birdies on the day for a closing 66 to finish in a share of 2nd place (winning $66,000) and earned back his full PGA TOUR status for 2014. It is the most birdies ever made by a player on the Dye Valley Course during a single tournament round. If he had not done so he would have played a limited schedule on the TOUR based on non-exempt status. He earned that by way of his 129th place finish in the 2013 FedEx Cup standings. The birdie barrage included holes 6, 8, 11, ones Brad called “huge” as they are among the toughest on the course. “I knew I was making up some of the field there,” he said of the trio.
Without a moment to spare Brad will now look ahead to the 2014 PGA TOUR season which begins on October 7th, 2013 with the FRYS.COM Open. He will be in the field in California for the tournament.
It’s not much of an off-season (Brad says he will likely have about 4 or 5 days at home) but he also looks at the new PGA TOUR scheduling as an advantage. “I think it’s a great opportunity to get your foot in the door early. With the Presidents Cup next week a lot of top guys won’t be playing right away so you can get a good start on them.”
Fritsch expects to play several of the Fall events. Undoubtedly his legion of fans will be glad to follow his progress at them and throughout the rest of 2014 as he enjoys another full season as a member of the PGA TOUR.
It’s a right he earned in a most spectacular fashion. Further proof that he deserves his place among the best golfers on the planet.