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It's been a different and much more scenic route, but Rideau View Golf Club member Brad Fritsch finds himself at the same crossroads he faced at this time last year.
He knows the drill.
Despite a stunning late-season run that included his best-ever finish on the PGA TOUR - a tie for eighth at the Wyndham Championship Sunday - Fritsch came up short of making the FedEx Cup playoffs and keeping his playing privileges for next season. Once again, he's heading for the four-tournament finals on the Web.com Tour to try and earn his PGA TOUR card for next season.
He's been there, done that.
After finishing 129th on the FedEx Cup list last year and missing the cut in the first three events of the Web.com playoffs last year, Fritsch finished second at the 2013 Web.com TOUR Championship, earning $66,000 and enough to finish in the top 50 at the playoffs and keep his card.
Now he's also got the added experience of this season which has seen him take the next step to get himself in contention on the PGA TOUR.
Starting championship Sunday at the Wyndham a stroke off the lead held by Nick Watney and playing in the final group for the first time, Fritsch stalled with an even-par 70 as Camilo Villegas rode a front-nine 29 to victory, his first in 4-1/2 years.
(A bit of an aside: Fritsch played with Villegas during the TOUR Qualifying School in 2012 in Palm Springs, CA. It was pretty cool to see Jeff Scott, Fritsch's caddie and former Rideau View assistant pro, do the "Spiderman," - made famous by Villegas - to read putts that day. It's interesting to see two guys who were playing together at TOUR school at couple of years ago in contention Sunday).
Fritsch wound up three shots short of keeping his card.
He can build on the experience of playing in the last group on the last day of the PGA TOUR's "regular season" going into this year's Web.com finals.
"It'll be one of those things I can look back on and say that for the most part, I executed shots all day, good enough to be in the top three. Two three-putts on the back (on the 12th and 15thholes after aggressive first putts) pretty much made it an average day instead of a good day," said Fritsch.
"I didn't feel out of place or overly nervous."
Fritsch positioned himself a shot off the lead after 54 holes with a bogey-free 65 on Saturday which saw him splash an eagle (a 76-yard approach into the hole on the eighth hole) and three birdies across his card. That put him at 13-under par, just behind leader Watney.
That came on the heels of a 7-under par 63 on Friday.
Fritsch started the week in 152nd place on the money list with $419,991 and 163rd on the FedEx Cup standings. But Fritsch has been making a charge after being sidetracked by some back issues last season and for part of this year. He had a tie for 13th at the John Deere Classic and an exciting finish for a tie for ninth at the RBC Canadian Open. He made the cut on the number Friday at the RBC Canadian Open with a double-breaking 30-foot putt birdie putt on the 18th hole and then played the weekend at Royal Montreal in 9-under par with a 67 and 64.
His three top 10 finishes this season contributed in large part to his TOUR earnings of $568.391, good for 140th on the money list (he finished 151st on the FedEx Cup points list). He also earned another $28,893 on the Web.com Tour.
Fritsch has been frustrated with the lack of starts granted a Web.com Tour graduate. He got only 18 starts on the PGA TOUR this season because of the other exemptions, such as a large number of players on major medical exemptions, which limited the opportunities for guys like Fritsch farther down the list.
While Fritsch takes responsibility for his position, that doesn't ease the frustration. "Felt like I played one on, off three, played one, off four. I think if the field sizes were the same as they were last year, I would have gotten in four, five more events," he told reporters after the third round of the Wyndham.
"That's just frustrating."
After his top 10 finish finish at the Farmers Insurance Open in February - a top 10 usually gets a player in the next event - players using major medical exemptions contributed to keeping him from playing in the Waste Management Open in Phoenix.
The good news is Fritsch said he can look forward to playing in the opening event on the 2014-15 PGA TOUR wraparound schedule thanks to his top 10 at the Wyndham.
"On the upside, that top 10 ACTUALLY into an event. Fry's, the first event of the year," texted Fritsch.
For now, Fritsch will join the rest of the PGA TOUR players who finished ranked 126-200 on the FedEx Cup points list and the top 75 money winners on the Web.com Tour in the Web.comTour finals where 50 PGA TOUR cards will be awarded for next season.
The top 25 money winners from the 2014 Web.com Tour are guaranteed PGA TOUR cards for next season as are the next 25 top money winners from the four-event Web.com Tour playoffs.
"I'm definitely playing better than I was at this point last year, but I take nothing for granted. That kind of thinking can wind up hurting you."
The Web.com Tour finals schedule:
Hotel Fitness Championship
Sycamore Hills G.C.
Fort Wayne, IN.
River Run C.C.
Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship
Ohio State University G.C.
Web.com Tour Championship
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL