Fritsch in pursuit of 2013 PGA Tour card
By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency
MCKINNEY, TEX. - When Jack Nicklaus was the best player in the world, one of the keys to his success was how he handled that tough round when he didn’t have his “A” game.
The key to winning often wasn’t squeezing the most of that round of 65 or 66, but having the ability to turn a 73 into a 70.
Despite conditions more suited to a late October day in Ottawa than Texas, and the fact he didn’t have his “eh” game in the Canadian-like conditions, Manotick, Ont.’s Brad Fritsch ground out a gritty even-par 71 at the Web.com Tour Championship and enhanced his chances of improving on his current 21st place on the money list.
The top 60 players are here to decide the top 25 on the money list who will get their 2013 PGA Tour cards and graduate to the big-time next year. First place is worth $180,000 of the $1-million purse - about double what it is in a normal Web.com event - so the potential to make a big move is there.
The 34-year-old Fritsch is tied for second after 36 holes, two shots behind leader Justin Hicks of Wyandotte, Mich., who had a 69 Friday to get to 8-under for the tournament. Fritsch will play the third round Saturday in the last group with Hicks - currently 11th on the money list - and Justin Bolli of Greenville, S.C., who had a 71 Friday and is tied with Fritsch for second.
Second place here is worth $108,000, which depending on how things shake out, could move a guy in 20th place to the top 10. More importantly, the higher a player finishes on the Web.com Tour, the better his chances of getting into events on the PGA Tour next year.
Fritsch, tied for the lead after the first round, slipped to 2-over for his round in the blustery and cold conditions at TPC Craig Ranch after 10 holes Friday, but battled back to get it to even par with birdies on 12th and 15th holes.
“To come out at even par, I’m pretty happy with the way I grinded it out,” said Fritsch. “It wasn’t my best round, but I made a few putts and kept the ball in front of me so I could hit it again.”
The 15th and 16th holes were good examples. The 216-yard par-3 was playing dead into the strong wind and Fritsch hit a thin 4-iron that somehow stayed under the wind and limped its way onto the multi-tiered green. He had a putt of about 40 feet down off one tier with a twisted to the left and he coaxed it into the hole on its last roll.
On the downwind, par-4 16th, Fritsch lost his drive to the right and went down a hill. He got a drop and lofted his approach into the middle of the green from where he made an easy par.
He then parred the par-3 17th with a good two-putt from 50 feet - he almost holed his first putt - and had a par on the par-5 18th after he put his drive in a fairway bunker for the second day in a row and had to lay up.
“I had that bomb on 15 and then to finish with three pars is pretty good,” said Fritsch. “It’s one of those rounds where you want to keep it stress free, but the course is playing so long and tough, there are going to be a few stressful holes.”
Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., made a big move Friday with a 2-under 69 and moved from a tie for 20th to a tie for eighth. He started the week 48th on the money list and probably needs to finish second to have a shot at the top 25, but a move into the top 40 will make him exempt into the final stage of the last PGA Q School in December, not an insignificant thing.
“I’ve got to win, that’s the only option,” said Hadwin. “Getting into contention was number one. Now I’ve got to finish it off which is something I haven’t done this year. It’s go low or go home.”
Richard Scott of Windsor, Ont., had a 74 Friday and is tied for 53rd place.