By Gord Holder, OTTAWA CITIZEN
A special round of golf and one good week made Brad Fritsch of Manotick a full-time PGA Tour member again.
The 35-year-old golfer collected nine birdies on his way to a 4-under-par 66 on Sunday and finished tied for second with a total of 272 in the Web.Com Tour Championship at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
The first golfer from the Ottawa area to become a PGA Tour regular, Fritsch had to go through the new four-event qualifying process after failing to finish in the top 125 on either the season money list or the FedEx Cup playoff standings, although he ranked high enough to warrant "conditional" member status that would have given him entry into about 10 tournaments.
He missed the cut in the first three events of the series featuring those trying to requalify for the PGA Tour and those hoping to move up from the affiliated Web.Com Tour, but Sunday's tie for second lifted him into 14th in the rankings for next season, which starts in just a week and a half thanks to a change to an October-August schedule.
"I wish I didn't leave it to the last round, but, at the same time, I can take a huge boost of confidence from knowing that I had to shoot four under or better (Sunday) and I did exactly that," Fritsch said via telephone as he drove to Atlanta for a corporate-sponsor appearance on Monday, the result of a late finish that caused him to miss all available flights from Jacksonville.
Fritsch initially qualified for the PGA Tour by placing 18th on the 2012 Web.Com Tour money list. He survived the cut at the midpoint of 18 of 25 tournaments, earning $452,184 U.S. Sunday's finish was worth another $66,000.
He said he had sufficiently recovered from mid-season back problems to work on his pre-shot set-up, which led to better ball-striking, and he also made good use of of a new putter that went into his bag last week.
"I putted the ball this week better than I probably have all year," he said.
U.S. pro Chesson Hadley (69-270) was the tournament winner on Sunday.
Fritsch said he expected to get into the fields for all four fall events on the PGA Tour between October and mid-November.