The Web.com Tour is promoted as the “path to the PGA Tour,” and radio spots for the Rex Hospital Open this week note former Web.com Tour players have won more than 350 times on the big tour.
“Success is not a guarantee. It just seems that way on the Web.com Tour,” one ad declares.
Brad Fritsch, like many others who play golf for a living, already has learned about the first part – about success. As for the Web.com Tour, he’s back on it after two years on the PGA Tour and again trying to find his way.
“It’s been a disappointing year so far,” Fritsch said Monday at TPC Wakefield Plantation. “”I’ve had spurts of good play here and there. There’s some good play in there somewhere.”
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Fritsch played college golf at Campbell and lives in Holly Springs. A year ago, the 37-year-old Canadian tied for fourth in the Rex Hospital Open with a strong finishing-kick 66 at Wakefield.
Fritsch hopped between tours in 2014, competing in 18 PGA Tour events while also playing six on the Web.com Tour. He had three top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour – his best a tie for eighth in the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro – in winning more than $568,000 while adding about $29,000 from Web.com tournaments.
Fritsch was 151st in Fed ExCup points and fell short of retaining his playing rights on the PGA Tour. But he then was the medalist in the 2014 Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament in December, where he had a 27-under-par total for the five-round event and won by seven shots.
Nice playing, and it put more money in his pocket, but Q-School no longer is a direct “path” to the PGA Tour that it once was. It earned him fully exempt status on the Web.com Tour for 2015, and it hasn’t been a smooth ride so far.
In nine Web.com tournaments, Fritsch has made five cuts; his best finish is a tie for 41st in the Chitimacha Louisiana Open. Total winnings: $9,918.
“One week I drive it great, don’t putt it well,” he said. “The next week I wedge it poorly but do everything else well. I’m just trying to figure out the right mix of what I need to do before each tournament starts to get in the right position.”
The tour’s last stop was in Greer, S.C., two weeks ago for the BMW Charity Pro-Am and Fritsch opened with a pair of 72s he called lackluster. He then had a third-round 64, his low score of the year although not enough to survive the 54-hole cut in that event.
“I just think where’s that been and why can’t I focus like that every single day?” Fritsch said, smiling. “It’s something I’ll figure out as the year goes on and this week would be a good place to start.”
Rod Pampling, who won the BMW Charity Pro-Am, won’t be at the Rex. But the tour’s leading money winner, Peter Malnati of Knoxville, Tenn., is looking to pick up his second victory of the year, and former East Carolina golfer Harold Varner III returns to the Rex after tying for second last year.
Byron Smith was the 2014 winner, posting a 16-under 268 total at Wakefield for a four-shot victory over Varner and Scott Gardiner. Fritsch was five shots back.
“It’s something I can take momentum from,” Fritsch said. “I know the course very well. I just need to get my game straight and come in Thursday and try to attack it because it seems like it will be there for the taking this week, I think. I need to get out there and be aggressive.”
Fritsch may draw inspiration from the Ottawa Senators, his favorite NHL team and one of his sponsors. In the past year, Senators general manager Bryan Murray announced he has cancer, assistant coach Mark Reeds died of cancer and team owner Eugene Melynk underwent a liver transplant.
The Senators did regroup down the stretch and reached the Stanley Cup playoffs before losing a tough series against the Montreal Canadiens.
“It has been awful for them,” Fritsch said of the Sens. “But it was a great run to make the playoffs and a treat to see the guys in the playoffs.”
In hockey, like pro golf, determination and perseverance can be rewarded. No guarantees, but there can be success.
Rex Hospital Open
What: Web.com Tour event.
Where: TPC Wakefield Plantation, Raleigh.
Purse: $625,000, with winner receiving $112,500.
Of note: Food Truck Friday is Friday at TPC Wakefield. Saturday is Family Day at the Open presented by the Carolina Hurricanes. Military Appreciation Day is Sunday.
Ticket and parking information: www.rexhospitalopen.com