CANONSBURG, Pa. -- Canada’s Brad Fritsch fired a 7-under 64 on Friday and moved into the lead at the halfway point of the Web.com Tour’s Mylan Classic in suburban Pittsburgh. Fritsch, a resident of Raleigh, N.C., is at 12 under par 130 for his first two trips around the Southpointe Golf Club, one shot better than veteran Cliff Kresge (65).
Casey Wittenberg, a two-time winner this year and No. 2 on the 2012 money list, steadied his way to a 4-under 67 in the afternoon to reach 10-under 132 and is alone in third.
First-round co-leaders Edward Loar and Robert Streb each carded 2-under 69s and are three off the pace. Nicholas Thompson (67), Peter Lonard (65) and Matt Weibring (63) share sixth place, four back.
Fritsch, No. 43 on the money list, has been making steady progress in the past two months with this being his sixth consecutive cut made.
“I’ve been hitting it really good, but the last couple weeks’ performances have been limited by my putter,” he said. “For the majority of those tournaments, I’ve hit the ball as good as I can. It’s just whether the putter cooperates.”
Things changed for the better last week in Knoxville, Tenn., at the News Sentinel Open, where Fritsch and his coach, Patrick Kelley, made some adjustments.
“My stroke was getting real jabby and my speed control was really bad,” said Fritsch, who ranks 117th out of 140 players in putts per round this year. “I feel like I’m lengthening my stroke but it’s probably not, it’s just slower. It feels like it takes a long time to hit the ball, but I’ve watched it on video and it looks normal. I was just in a bad place and getting fast.”
The low point came two weeks ago in Kansas City when Fritsch struck the ball beautifully in the final round of the Midwest Classic, but managed only a 2-under 69.
“I snuck in a three-footer on the last hole,” he says. “I kept missing very makeable putts.”
Things have slowed down for Fritsch, who is reading the greens better, seeing his lines and making putt after putt as his confidence grows.
“Just the way the ball comes off the putter,” he said of the nearly instant improvements. “You can only hit your line with the right speed, right? If you read it wrong, fine. On a scale of one to 100, my confidence is about 80 or 85 now.”
The result has put Fritsch into the lead for only the second time in his four years on Tour. The other time also came in the Keystone State when he shared the 36-hole lead at the 2006 Northeast Pennsylvania Classic in Scranton.
Kresge ranks in the top-20 this week in both driving accuracy and greens in regulation but says his work around the greens is what has pushed him near the top.
“My ball striking has been fair,” he said. “My chipping and putting have been great. That’s the key. You can’t score with your long game, you’ve got to score with your short game and I’ve been able to do that the last couple of days.”
Kresge, 43, has turned his season around thanks to an old-fashioned work ethic – practice, practice and more practice.
“In my last six or seven tournaments, I’ve put some better scores on the board,” he said. “I’ve been putting a lot of time and effort in and I’m starting to see the fruits of my labor.”
A perfect example of his hard work came at the par-5 eighth hole, where his second shot found the water that guards the left side of the green. After taking his drop, Kresge chipped in from about 20 feet and turned a potential bogey into a birdie.
“It was an easy shot and I had a great lie,” he said. “You’re thinking about chipping it in but you don’t always do that.”
Patrick Sheehan shot a 3-over 74 and wound up missing the cut by one shot. Sheehan finished at at 1-under 141 despite a 10 on his scorecard Friday, as he “hit for the cycle” when he made a quintuple-bogey 10 on the par-5 eighth hole, his second-to-last of the day.
Sheehan hit a perfect drive (1) on the 540-yard, downhill hole and faced 217 yards to the hole for his second shot. He hit his second shot (3I/hybrid) to the right. The ball hit the cart path but “I don’t know how many times,” he said.
He ended up on the hill near a fence and faced a difficult third shot from grass that was 18-24 inches tall.
“I had no chance to get it near the hole,” Sheehan said. “I just wanted to hack it out and get near the back of the green.”
Sheehan’s third shot squirted to the right and went out of bounds (3). He took a drop (4) and had “a perfect lie” but whiffed on his next attempt (5), his club passing under the ball. His next shot hurried down the hill and ended up in the water that guards the left of the green (6). He was able to drop (7) on the fringe and he then three-putted from 60 feet to complete the 10.
“Out of bounds, a whiff, in the water and then a three-putt to top it off,” Sheehan said with a laugh later on. “I really played well for two days and it was just too bad it had to finish on a sour note like that. Other than that, I hit the ball fantastic. I know I’ve had some bad holes before but that’s the first time I’ve ever had a score that high on a single hole.”
--A total of 61 players made the 36-hole cut, which came at 2-under 140, the same as last year. Early in the day the cut was projected at 2 under par, but then the winds picked up and it appeared the cut would come at 1-under 141. Late in the afternoon, the wind settled down and a few more birdies were posted to move the cut back to 2 under.
--22 of the top-25 money winners were entered this week and 15 of those advanced to the weekend. Among those missing the cut were #4 Paul Haley, #8 Darron Stiles, #10 Andrew Svoboda, #18 Alex Aragon, #19 Luke Guthrie and #22 Camilo Benedetti. Lee Williams (#7) withdrew on Friday. Luke List (#1), Andres Gonzales (#5) and Doug LaBelle (#20) did not play this week.
--Lee Williams (back) and Reid Edstrom (knee) withdrew due to injuries. Oscar Serna was disqualified when he failed to turn in a scorecard.
--No player in the field played the first 36 holes without a bogey. Cliff Kresge leads the field with 14 birdies through two days.
--This is only the second time in 88 career starts that Brad Fritsch has been atop the standings after 36 holes. Fritsch was tied for first at the halfway point of the 2006 Northeast Pennsylvania Classic in Scranton. He went on to tie for fourth that week, which remains his career-best effort to date.
--Darron Stiles, winner of last week’s News Sentinel Open in Knoxville, Tenn., fired a 3-under 68 and finished at 1-under 141 to miss the cut by one stroke. Stiles entered the week No. 8 on the 2012 money list.
--Andy Winings registered the second hole-in-one of the tournament with a ace at the 179-yard 12th hole. Winings’ ace was the third of his career (all in competition) and the seventh in the tournament’s three-year history. The hole-in-one came via a 7-iron and turned things around for Winings, who was 3 over when he stepped to the tee. His eagle was followed by three straight birdies and moved him inside the cut line at 2 under par. He closed with three straight pars and made the cut on the number.
--Nick Flanagan reeled off seven consecutive birdies during his 5-under 66. His streak is the best on Tour this year and the most since Scott Gardiner had seven in a row at the 2011 Cox Classic in Omaha. The previous best this season was six straight by four players – most recently by Kevin Foley in the first round at the Midwest Classic in Kansas City two weeks ago.
This is also the second time in his career that Flanagan has made seven straight birdies. He also did in the third round of the 2006 Price Cutter Charity Championship. Flanagan had seven in a row (Nos. 2-8) during an 8-under 64. He finished the week at 25-under 263 and in second place, two shots back of winner Doug LaBelle II.
Flanagan bogeyed his final hole Friday morning and finished at 1-under 141 to miss the cut by one stroke.
--Luke Guthrie missed the cut this week, the first missed cut of his professional career. Guthrie, who turned pro this summer, was a perfect 7-for-7 to start his pro experience but rounds of 73-71--144 sent the University of Illinois All-American home for the weekend for the first time.
Guthrie had three straight top-20 finishes on the PGA Tour to begin his pro career and then had posted four straight top-10 efforts on the Web.com Tour to enter the week No. 19 on the money list.
Guthrie hit only 16 of 28 fairways in two rounds (tied for 95th), 26 of 36 greens in regulation (tied for 45th) and had 62 putts (tied for 110th).
--Former U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee has posted scores of 68-69--137 (-5) and is tied for 13th heading into the weekend. Lee is making only his second start on Tour this year after finishing No. 6 on the 2011 money list and earning his PGA Tour card. Lee’s rookie season has been less than spectacular – he has made 11 cuts in 22 starts and has only two top-25 finishes. He is No. 159 in the FedEdCup standings and did not qualify for the playoffs that are currently underway.
Lee tied for eighth in this event a year ago, thanks to a 9-under 62 in the final round.
--Kevin Kisner, winner of the inaugural event two years ago, fired an even-par 71 Friday and is at 5-under 137 despite playing his final seven holes without his putter. Kisner damaged his club following a three-putt double bogey at the par-5 11th hole.
“I placed it on my bag with a little bit of emphasis,” he said with a chuckle. “I’ve never done that before. We were walking to the 12th green and my caddie asked me what club I wanted to use. I took a look at it and the shaft was bent a little.”
Kisner used his driver to putt with the rest of the way and played the last seven holes in one-under par. He is tied for 13th heading into the final two days.
--The Web.com Tour will be idle next week before heading west for the Albertsons Boise Open at Hillcrest Country Club Sept. 10-16.