Fritsch finally back in winner's circle
The Canadian won the Web.com Tour Qualifing Tournament by a commanding seven strokes
December 16, 2014
By Kevin Prise, PGATOUR.COM
- Brad Fritsch shot a 5-under 66 in the closing round of Q-School. (Keyur Khamar/Getty Images)
PALM BEACH GARDENS, FLA. -- After finishing No. 151 on the 2013-14 PGA TOUR FedExCup standings and failing to play well in the Web.com Tour Finals, 37-year-old Brad Fritsch was relegated back to Second Stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament.
It was a rather harsh fall from grace for the veteran Canadian, who recorded three top-15 finishes in his final four TOUR events of the summer, but Fritsch accepted the situation. If he wanted to earn fully exempt status for the 2015 Web.com Tour season, he needed to advance through Second Stage and then medal at Final Stage.
(Easier said than done, especially considering Fritsch admitted on Tuesday that he can’t remember the last time he won before this week.)
The affable Fritsch, an avid Ottawa Senators fan, let loose a few months’ worth of frustration at PGA National Resort and Spa, as he shot 27 under for six rounds to earn medalist honors at Q-School, seven strokes clear of runner-up Andrew Landry.
Fritsch earns fully exempt status for the 2015 Web.com Tour season; before Q-School, he was only guaranteed entry into events prior to the first reshuffle.
It’s a nice feat for Fritsch, especially when considering that he briefly thought about leaving his Second Stage site prior to the opening round. The weather was “miserable” at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas, and Fritsch knew that he at least had some status for 2015.
But the competitor in him rose to the top. Reflecting on his journey, just over a month later, he’s certainly glad it did.
"On the first day of Second Stage, it was just so cold," said Fritsch. "You couldn’t warm up for more than five or 10 minutes, because your hands would freeze. I stood against this wall that blocked the wind, and I thought, ‘I already have status out here a little bit; I could go home right now.’ It was miserable, and I thought about it. But I figured, 'We’re there, so we might as well go play.'"
He played, and he played well: Fritsch finished T3 at TPC Craig Ranch, advancing to Final Stage with five shots to spare.
Fritsch carries a more accomplished pedigree than the majority of players in the field at PGA National, where each competitor played three rounds at the Champion course and three at the Fazio course over the six-round Final Stage.
The 2000 Campbell University graduate played parts of eight seasons on PGA TOUR Canada after finishing college. He earned Web.com Tour status for the first time in 2007, and his most accomplished season was 2012, when he finished No. 18 on the money list to earn TOUR status for 2013.
Fritsch had a strong rookie campaign on TOUR, finishing No. 129 on the FedExCup standings to keep conditional TOUR status for 2013-14. He struggled through the early part of the season but caught fire as the weather began to heat up – he finished T13 at the John Deere Classic, T9 at the RBC Canadian Open, and T8 at the Wyndham Championship (the final event of the TOUR’s regular season).
Fritsch would have kept conditional TOUR status for 2014-15 if he had cracked the top 150 in the FedExCup standings, but he finished No. 151. His best finish in the Web.com Tour Finals was T46 at the Chiquita Classic, and just like that, he was forced to return to Second Stage.
Brad Fritsch earns medalist honors at Web.com Tour Q-school
“I think my mindset hasn’t changed, which I think is the best thing that could’ve happened,” said Fritsch, reflecting on his ability to shake off recent disappointments and play well at Q-School. “I know I’m playing well – the best golf I’ve ever played was probably near the end of the PGA TOUR season – so I can’t get down about dropping down a level. It’s disappointing, but you can’t let it define how you play going forward.
“So I tried my best, and I think I did a really good job of just focusing on, ‘I’m going to play golf; I’m not going to worry about where I am or who I’m playing against. I’m playing against Andrew (Landry) and Rhein (Gibson) today in my group, and that’s that. I just have to go play.”
Perhaps the only negative of Fritsch’s week was that he had to miss the wedding of his brother Stephen, who got married Saturday in Ottawa.
“Unfortunately I had to miss, but this was my job for next year on the line, so I figured I had to come here,” said Fritsch. “I talked to him (Saturday) morning beforehand; I just congratulated him and apologized for not being able to be there, but he knows what the deal is.”
A lighter negative came when his beloved Senators fell to the Buffalo Sabres on Monday evening.
“It’s a bad deal, losing to the Sabres,” said Fritsch. “It’s a bad deal.”
Entering the final round with a five-shot lead over Landry, Fritsch drew separation with a birdie-eagle stretch on the Champion course’s third and fourth holes. He made four birdies and two bogeys from there, and the victory lap was complete.
“His aggressiveness, his shotmaking, he knew what he needed to be doing,” said Landry, who was paired with Fritsch for the final round. “And his putting was awesome. He’s a good guy, a super guy. I had a hell of a time with him today.”
“It was the best I’ve seen Brad play, no question,” added Fritsch’s caddie of three years, Jeff Scott. “His ball striking was awesome, and his putting was on a different level. He made a ton of putts every day.”
And at the end of the day Tuesday, Fritsch was able to do something that he hadn’t done in a long, long time: hold a trophy.
“I think finally winning is great for my mind,” said Fritsch. “Because I was never much of a winner in junior golf, amateur golf, whatever. This is great, because I finally got out to a big, big lead. Usually for me, if I’m in first or second or third with one round remaining, I play an OK round and finish second or third. That’s not terrible, but it was nice to execute in the final round when I had to.
“I think executing down the stretch and learning how to build a big lead, learning how to play with a big lead, is important. You can start to play defense, and I didn’t, and I’m happy about that.”