Reprieve For Fritsch at The Farmers

Brad Fritsch drives on the first hole of the South Course at Torrey Pines to start the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Any day that you shoot 75 on the PGA Tour you’re likely not too happy but there were at least a few things Brad Fritsch could take away from the Farmers Insurance Open that ended Monday.  Ultimately he earned his first top ten finish on the PGA Tour and an entry into this week’s Tour event.  With two holes to play however, those rewards looked to be in grave jeopardy.

With fog causing a Saturday cancellation of play the Ottawa-area golfer had eleven holes left to play in his final round on Monday. At that point he was near the top of the leaderboard.  Unfortunately his game did not go well to start.  The rookie threw up five bogeys in his first nine holes of the day.  It not only left him bleeding cash but also jeopardized his spot in this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open based on a top ten finish.

By phone from San Diego Brad said afterwards, “All I was thinking through 15 holes was that something had to start going right.”   He had just made five bogeys in a stretch of six holes and was concerned about his position in the field.  “I was thinking that maybe I had dropped to like 35th or something but Jeff (his caddy, Jeff Scott) told me that I was still like 15th.”

Fritsch says that as messy as the bogeys looked he didn’t really feel that he was playing too poorly or his short game was failing him as was being mentioned by the television broadcast team. “I figured I had to just stick with it. I let some opportunities slip but it was more that I wasn’t putting myself in good spots.  That’s what we did the first three days.”

Brad says 15 was a perfect example.  The long-hitting pro says the 477-yard par four at Torrey Pines was playing more like 530 yards with the wind and cool temperatures, requiring him to hit an approach from more than 210 yards.  Unfortunately it flew the green, leaving a pitch to a green surface running away from him.  From there he could barely get the ball within a ten foot radius, resulting in his 7th bogey of the final round.

The pro mentioned that he was trying to stay patient at that point but basically threw his hands up about expectations and kept playing.

The strategy paid off.  He chipped in for par on the 16th.

Showing his resilience Fritsch popped in a 38 foot birdie on the very next hole.  “That was a bit of crazy putt.  I started it about four feet outside the hole and it just went in. It just told me that if I kept going through the same process that some good things could happen.”

He followed that enlightened moment with another birdie, this time from three feet, on his last hole to push him into a six-way tie for 9th place alongside fellow Canadian Graham DeLaet.  With just 242 yards left to the green for his second shot he contemplated going for the green in two on the par five but thought better of it.  “With the wind into us and the cold I would have had to hammer it to get it there.  I knew if I made a four or at worst a five I would be fine.  With the money we are playing for I didn’t want to bring a bogey or worse into play.  I figured I’d just trust my wedge and I hit a good one in there.”

The resulting 72-hole total of 281 left him seven strokes back of winner Tiger Woods, who earned his 75th career PGA Tour title, but it still provided a windfall of $146,400.  That is the largest cheque of Fritsch’s career and boosts his 2013 PGA Tour earnings to $184,200 in just three events.  That is within $30,000 of his entire winnings on the Tour for 2012 when he finished 18th on the year-long money list.

In addition to the money the top ten finish earned Fritsch something else very important, a start at this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.  He was not exempt into the event based on his priority ranking but now he can get in another valuable start and an opportunity to bolster his spot on the money list before the first priority ranking reshuffle of the year in a few weeks.  He’ll be looking to continue his PGA Tour cut streak as a Tour member. He is three for three this year.

“I’m really looking forward to it.  I’ve heard it’s a fun tournament.”

Fritsch says he won’t get much practice time in at Phoenix with the Monday finish in San Diego but he played “four or five rounds” there in the past so he should be comfortable.

Of course none of those rounds involved the stadium-like party atmosphere that waits for him on the 16th at TPC Scottsdale during the tournament proper. Even so he says he’ll try and be ready.  Asked if he had given any thought to something he might be able throw to the crowd, as is a tradition for some players, Fritsch said he that maybe a call to one of his sponsors, the Ottawa Senators, might be necessary.

With no hesitation he added, “I was thinking a few pucks might be good idea.”

If he does, let’s just hope Brad plays the 16th well or his best impression of Senators goalie Craig Anderson might be in order.

Something tells me that either way the rookie on a hot streak will be just fine.

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