Fritsch, Henley still at the top in Chiquita Classic

September 29, 2012
Phil Stambaugh, Staff

WEDDINGTON, N.C. -- Canada's Brad Fritsch and Russell Henley of Macon, Ga. started Saturday's third round tied for the lead and both players matched 7-under-par 65s to stay deadlocked after 54 holes of the 2012 Chiquita Classic. Both players have three-round totals of 20-under 196, just one stroke off the lowest first 54 holes on the Tour (Paul Haley II, Chile Classic Presented by Pacific Rubiales) this year.


Fritsch was treading water over his first seven holes today with two birdies and two bogeys. However, he knew that if he stayed patient and kept the ball in play off the tee, he'd have good opportunities for birdies over the remainder of the round. A suma cum laude graduate of Campbell University in North Carolina who is from Ottawa, Fritsch didn't have to wait long for the fireworks to happen and eventually he birdied seven of his last 11 holes at The Club at Longview, including three straight beginning at No. 8. Tomorrow, Fritsch will attempt to become the 13th different Canadian to win on the Tour and could claim the 19th overall title on the Tour by a player from north of the border.

"When I holed an eight-foot putt at the eighth hole, things started to turn around," Fritsch said. "There are so many par-4s on this course where you have wedges and 9-irons into the greens and they are so pure. I knew if I just stuck to the game plan and hit the putts on my line, I would be fine. It's all about patience and not getting out of rhythm or thinking I've got to hit driver off this tee to try and make one up. You have to believe in yourself and believe that if you don't make any birdies the first seven holes, you're going to make a lot over the last 11 because this is the kind of golf course that you can do that on."

Henley, a University of Georgia product who won the 2011 Stadion Classic at UGA last year as an amateur, kept pace with Fritsch thanks to another round with a hot putter. His bogey-free 65 included two birdies on the front nine (Nos. 2,4) and five more on the back side (Nos. 11, 12, 15, 16, 17). Henley leads the field with 23 total birdies for the week and over three rounds at The Club at Longview, he's needed just 77 total putts.

"I just feel pretty good about my putting right now. My speed and everything has been really consistent and I've felt really good on the greens," Henley said. "I'm excited! I had a blast today. This is why you play, you play to be in contention on Sunday."

Two former collegiate All-Americans, Patrick Cantlay (65) from UCLA and Morgan Hoffmann (66) from Oklahoma State, are tied for third, five strokes back of the co-leaders. Charlotte resident Fernando Mechefeffe of Brazil is alone in fifth place, six strokes off the lead after posting a 67 on Saturday.

Both Fritsch and Henley have excellent chances to move into the top 25 on the 2012 Tour money list after this week's event. Fritsch, currently No. 27 on the money list, finished T2 three weeks ago at the Mylan Classic. Henley is currently 35th in season earnings and finished T2 in mid-August at the Midwest Classic Presented by Cadillac.

"I don't really care what I shoot, I just want to win" Henley said. "It's fun to go low, that's something that I've gotten more and more comfortable with this year. You don't play a lot of courses where you can go too low on in college. I just want to shoot whatever it takes to win. It's a lot of fun and I'm excited to be a part of it."

For the first time in the 23-year history of the Tour, this year's Chiquita Classic is being played in the Charlotte area after a two-year run in the Cincinnati market. Next year's Chiquita Classic will be part of the Tour finals, a four-event series that will identify and finalize the 50 players who earn 2013-14 PGA TOUR playing privileges, beginning in 2013.

The final round gets underway at 8:25 a.m. ET on Sunday.

Third-Round Notes

* Saturday weather: Mostly cloudy with traces of rain in the morning. Winds were out of the NW at 6-12 mph.

* A total of nine 54-hole leaders/co-leaders have gone on to win the first 22 events on the 2012 Tour. The last to do so was Darron Stiles in late August at the News Sentinel Open in Knoxville, Tenn. Both of the previous 54-hole leaders at the Chiquita Classic went on to claim victory on Sunday.

* Brad Fritsch is a cumulative 13-under on the par-5s this week while co-leader Russell Henley is 7-under on the par-5s at The Club at Longview.

* Patrick Cantlay, making just his second career start on the Tour, shot a 7--under 65 today to move up into a T3. He's five strokes off the lead but will have a chance to become the 21st Monday Qualifier in the Tour's 23-year history to win a tournament. Cantlay, the top collegiate golfer in the United States in 2011 while at UCLA, shot 69 at Rocky River Golf Club on Monday to earn a spot in this week's Chiquita Classic.

Won event after open-qualifying (20):
Tom Garner 1990 Central New York Classic
John Flannery 1991 Reno Open
Glen Hnatiuk 1992 Mississippi Gulf Coast Classic
John Dowdall 1992 Hawkeye Open
Perry Moss 1992 Texarkana Open
Sonny Skinner 1993 Shreveport Open
Angel Franco 1993 Dominion Open
Michael Christie 1995 Carolina Classic
P.J. Cowan 1996 Tallahassee Open
Paul Gow 1997 Permian Basin Open
Darron Stiles 1999 Dominion Open
Ben Crane 2000 Wichita Open
Jace Bugg 2002 Arkansas Classic
Patrick Moore 2002 Richmond Open
Andy Miller 2002 State Farm Open
James Oh 2003 Mark Christopher Charity Classic
Chris Nallen 2004 Gila River Golf Classic
Eric Axley 2005 The Rex Hospital Open
Kyle Reifers 2006 Chattanooga Classic
Ted Potter, Jr. 2011 South Georgia Classic

Here's a list of the other players to accomplish the feat.

* Former Oklahoma State All-American Morgan Hoffmann, who last week finished in sixth place at the WNB Golf Classic to earn temporary status on the Tour after the reshuffle, is again in contention for his first victory on the Tour. Hoffmann, the 36-hole leader last week in Midland, Texas, carded a 6--under 66 today to move into a T3 through three rounds of the Chiquita Classic. With the reshuffle not taking place until after the Micosoukee Championship, Hoffmann would earn a spot in next week's Neediest Kids Championship with a top-25 finish tomorrow.

* Scott Dunlap (66) is now the only player with 11 consecutive sub-par rounds at the Chiquita Classic dating back to the inaugural event in 2010 near Cincinnati.

Round Front 9 Back 9 Total 60s Sub-Par
R1 35.545 35.333 70.878 54 101
R2 35.714 35.305 71.019 52 95
R3 35.119 34.881 70.000 25 40

* Course statistics this week:

* Through three rounds, the 247-yard, par-3 3rd hole still has been the hardest (3.263), yielding just 30 total birdies for the week and only four on Saturday. The par-5 544-yard 4th hole has been the easiest (4.596), giving up nine eagles and 176 birdies over three rounds.

* Tim O'Neal was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.