Fritsch improved his chances with a 14-under, T2-finish last weekend that earned him $44,800 at the Mylan Classic. Also helping him bump his 2012 total to $134,318 — less than $7,000 behind the earnings of 25th-place David Lingmerth — were T5 finishes at the BMW Charity Pro-Am in May and the Chitimacha Louisiana Open in March, and a T7 at the Panama Claro Championship, the tour’s second event of the season.
But perhaps the most encouraging part of Fritsch’s game recently is not so much the landing spots as the way he arrived. With consistency. Of the last 216 holes he’s played, he has 11 bogeys and one triple.
“So that means I’ve (only) played 12 holes where I’ve been over par,” said Fritsch. “Last week I had four bogeys in four rounds, and if I can keep doing that every week, it can only lead to better things.”
One of the longest hitters on any tour, Fritsch has been putting better of late. He’s also reached a new level of understanding about what it takes to succeed in getting his game to the best it’s ever been.
“Whenever I’ve finished Top 5 or whatever this year, it’s not like I’ve played flawless golf,” said Fritsch. “It’s not like I took advantage of every opportunity. It’s just that I’ve limited my mistakes. I know I make at least three or four or five birdies a round. I know that I make birdies, so I don’t have to panic if I’m even after six holes and the leader is at 7-under par. I know I can make four birdies and stay within striking distance.
“I’m definitely better than I was my last time out here (when it was the Nationwide Tour), three years ago. Absolutely. It’s like Tiger says, you don’t have to be perfect every week. Last week, at the PGA tournament Rory didn’t have a flawless week. He just kind of took advantage of opportunities, got up and down a few times, and there you go, he won the tournament.
“I’m definitely taking my game to a better level, too. It’s definitely gotten better.”
The road has had its bumps, to be sure. Fritsch spent the previous two seasons playing on the Canadian Tour and in mini-tour events when he lost his status on the Nationwide. He still felt his game was improving, that the fall was due more to bad breaks and putts that refused to drop, but it was a setback nonetheless.
Meanwhile, he was slugging it out from week-to-week while his wife Megan was left to do a lot of heavy lifting alone raising their daughter Hannah, who is now 3½.
“It’s definitely an issue,” said Fritsch. “There’s some sacrifices involved with this life for sure. My wife understands that. My daughter so far seems pretty good about it. She’ll tell you she loves and misses you, but she’s easily distracted.
“Being away from home, your neighbours and friends, for six weeks, then I’m back on the road next week for seven in a row, it’s not easy. I mean, I’m having a lot of fun doing it, but part of your life is also kind of put on hold when you’re travelling that much.
“I’m used to it, but at this particular time ... just the playing six weeks in a row, it’s exhausting. I kinda hit a wall on Sunday night. I was on the plane, and I felt like I was too tired to fall asleep. I just felt kinda sick to my stomach ... I wasn’t sick, but I was so tired, from the past week, and being in the final group Saturday and the second-last group Sunday. There’s a lot of pressure, and I was just mentally fried after that.”
Fritsch, who has about $50,000-$60,000 in annual expenses, admits it’s been a “nice year” financially. Sponsors help. But he tries not to think about money when he’s going to work. Not since setting goals of $100,000 and $200,000 in money earned at the start of the season.
If past years are any indication, it’ll take him to get to the $185,000-$190,000 neighbourhood to make it to the Top 25 group he covets.
But even at that point, he won’t be able to relax. Far from it.
“The thing is, once you get to the PGA Tour, coming from the Web.com Tour or Q-School, it’s set up so it’s really tough for a guy to keep his status,” said Fritsch. “You have to perform right way or else you start getting shuffled down categories, and then you’re going to be in some smaller events, opposite field events, and you’re not going to play for as much money as those top guys do. It’s kinda stacked against you, so you’ve got to get that first year out of the way really fast, you’ve got to play really well. It’s more like okay, this is step 1A, and 1B is going to be even tougher.
“I do look forward to the challenge if it happens, and I also really look forward if I get there, to playing on a week-in, week-out basis. I’ve only played seven or eight PGA Tour events in my life. And each time I feel a bit of pressure, it’s a different pressure than when I play the events I’m playing now. It’s a bigger stage, the atmosphere is bigger, it’s just a lot more overwhelming. I just feel if I can get out there and play five, six weeks in a row, all of a sudden it’s just going to feel like I’m supposed to be there, instead of ‘oooh, I get to step up for this one week’, and I really hope to play well.’
“If I know that I have the next week to do it, and the next week and the next week, I don’t think I’ll feel that same overwhelming feeling.”
And then, with some luck and familiarity, he’ll be rubbing shoulders with Woods and McIlroy on a Sunday afternoon.