Industry News

Long road to a Tour start often merges with Monday qualifier

By Alex Miceli

INDUSTRY HILLS, Calif. – As Jordan Spieth awoke Monday morning, basking in the glow of his victory a day earlier at Pebble Beach, many other touring pros faced a far different reality: trying to qualify for this week’s Genesis Open.

Brad Fritsch and Tag Ridings drove the 353 miles south from the Monterey Peninsula to suburban Los Angeles on Sunday evening. They had tied for 33rd in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and were tired from the weather-affected week.

For Fritsch, a 7:40 a.m. tee time at Industry Hills Golf Club’s Eisenhower Course forced him out of bed before 5 o’clock for the fifth day in a row.

Ridings wasn’t off until 8:50, a blessing after a drive into L.A. traffic that required Dr Pepper and windows down to help keep him awake.

After Ridings three-putted for par on the par-5 first hole – the practice green hadn’t been mowed, he said – he rallied to a 5-under 67. Ultimately, he would lose in a 6-for-2 playoff in the dark. Kevin Tway (7-under 65), Jonathan Garrick (66) and playoff survivors Kevin Dougherty (67) and J.T. Poston (67) earned spots in this week’s Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.

Fritsch, who holds Web.com Tour status, opted for the qualifier instead of this week’s Web.com event in Panama because he already was on the West Coast.

“It’s a crap shoot,” he said after his 3-under 69 came up snake eyes. He was headed home to Holly Springs, N.C., before planning to roll the dice again next Monday in a four-spot for the Honda Classic.

“It’s a tough go out of this category,” said Fritsch, 39, a Canadian. “You have to start well, and I didn’t.” 

 

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      Mike WeirMonday qualifiers attract plenty of talent, including many former Tour champions. Past Tour winners such as Stuart Appleby (69), Frank Lickliter (69), Will MacKenzie (69), D.A. Points (69), Arjun Atwal (70), Matt Bettencourt (70), Bill Lunde (70), Michael Thompson (71), Dean Wilson (71), Brendon Todd (72), Mike Weir (72) and Ted Purdy (78) failed to earn spots out of Industry Hills.

Atwal and Wilson, sitting together for lunch, pondered their recent setbacks. Wilson, 47, hasn’t regained the winning form that led to his lone Tour victory, in 2006 at The International. Atwal, 43, had stopped in L.A. en route to his home in Orlando, Fla., after having missed the cut in last week’s Maybank Championship on the European Tour. Atwal, of India, won the 2010 Wyndham Championship.

For both, a Monday qualifier is a long journey from winning Tour events. They had to arrive a day early, pay $90 for a practice round and try to find caddies.

Cameron Davis, the 21-year-old Australian who medaled at the Eisenhower Trophy amateur event in Mexico last year, is just trying to show what he’s got as a new pro. In his only start on Tour, he tied for 15th in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November. After a poor start here, he played his final seven holes in 4 under and salvaged a 70, but it was another Monday disappointment. 

“I think this is my fourth or fifth one – not sure actually. I’m losing track of them now,” Davis, who has settled in Seattle, said of his qualifying attempts. “I’ve been stuck on shooting 70, which is not enough in these events. Just not getting off to a good-enough start, so I’m pretty much doing the same thing: having a not-so-great front nine and then playing well on the back nine when I’m too far behind to really make it.”

Ultimately, that’s what all of the Monday guys – from the rookies to the past Tour champions – are trying to do: make it.