Brad Fritsch tied for lead after opening round of Web.com Tour Championship

Brad Fritsch. (ERROL McGIHON/QMI Agency file photo)

Brad Fritsch. (ERROL McGIHON/QMI Agency file photo)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:46 PM ET

MCKINNEY, TEX. - Brad Fritsch rolled out of a Chick-Fil-A after a post-round snack Thursday and opened the door to his Cadillac, his courtesy car for the week at the Web.com Tour Championship.

"Not bad," said the 34-year from Manotick, Ont., who shares the lead after the first round of the last tournament of the season where 25 PGA Tour cards are at stake. He said the same thing of his opening 6-under par 65, a good way to not only protect his spot among the top 25 money-earners who will be awarded those cards come Sunday afternoon, but improve on it.

"This is the only week we get (courtesy) cars, so this is pretty good."

Pretty good described Fritsch's situation as he entered Thursday's play 21st on the Web.com Tour's money list.

The black Cadillac is a little taste of what will await "The 25" who graduate to the big tour come Sunday, where fancy courtesy cars and free buffets are part of the routine (there was no food available when Fritsch wrapped up his round Thursday at TPC Craig Ranch, necessitating the post-round pit stop.)

Fritsch birdied the last two holes to grab a share of the lead at Craig Ranch, where the field is small (just the top 60 money-earners this season) and the pot is big: $1 million this week, with $180,000 going to the winner. That's about double a normal purse on the Web.com Tour, the PGA Tour's version of Triple-A, so there will be an opportunity for some players to make a move this week.

After his performance in the opening round, Fritsch could be one of them. Moving up the final ranking is important because the higher-ranked players will have better odds at gaining entry into the early PGA Tour events next year.

Fritsch entered the finale with $186,168 in earnings. He and 11th-ranked Justin Hicks are the only players currently among the top 25 money-earners in the lead group heading into Friday's second round.

The bubble guys, Doug Labelle II, currently in 26th spot, had a 1-under par 70 and 27th-placed Paul Claxton had a 68 to tie for 13th heading into Friday. The most vulnerable, No. 25 Camilo Benedetti, didn't do himself any favours with an opening 1-over 72 and sits in a tie for 48th in the 60-man field.

Rounding out the lead group with Fritsch and Hicks were Tag Ridings (ranked 51st), Justin Bolli (44th), Cliff Kresge (38th) and Michael Putnum (30th).

Jim Herman (22nd) and Hudson Swafford (23rd) are four shots back while Joseph Bramlett (24th) had a 1-under 70.

Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., started the week in 48th place on the money list and is tied for 20th after one round with a 2-under 69.

Richard Scott of Windsor, Ont., started out the week in 50th place on the money list and rounded out the Canadian contingent with a 1-over 72 and to tie for 48th.

After a big change in the weather as his group waited 25 minutes on the tee of the driveable par-4 14th hole, Fritsch opted to lay up with a 4-iron after the wind picked up and turned into their faces. He made par there and then bogeyed the par-3 15th when his 4-iron approach came up 30 yards short into the wind.

With the wind behind him on 17 and 18, Fritsch stiffed a couple of wedges to about five feet for a strong finish.

After struggling with his driving lately, sessions with coach Patrick Kelley the last three days helped that part of his game.

"I was getting really fast," said Fritsch. "It was being anxious more than anything. We worked on slowing everything down from the beginning and I drove it really well (Thursday)."

That sounds like it's setting him up well for Friday, in which he will play in the second-to-last group (unlike a regular week, the players are being regrouped according to scores for the second round).

"The goal is the same as it is every week," said Fritsch between bites of his post-round snack. "It's to win."

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

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