John Deere Classic

John Deere Classic

John Deere Classic
Silvis, Illinois
Winner: Dylan Frittelli

“I think,” the tall, lanky golfer was saying, “I was the only one on the course who smiled after a three-putt.” This would be the friendly neighborhood masochist speaking. Who else could smile at a three-putt?

But no — this was Dylan Frittelli, 29-year-old South African. He had arrived at the John Deere Classic (1) in danger of losing his PGA Tour card, (2) of having his European Tour membership run out, and (3) of having to return to the lower-level Korn Ferry Tour. And he drove the green at the par-four 14th — and then three-putted. And he could smile?

Yes. And a short while later he surged, scoring his first tour victory, thanks ultimately to Jay Brunza, retired Navy officer, clinical psychologist and one-time caddie-psychologist to an amateur Tiger Woods. Also the man who taught Frittelli to smile at three-putts and other calamities. And then Frittelli had other, far more substantial, things to smile about. He’d just shot 66-68-65-64 for a 21-under 263 and a two-stroke win over Russell Henley. And Frittelli took just one bogey over the 72 holes. Frittelli had seemed destined once again to labor behind the leaders. His opening 66 seemed robust enough, but Mexico’s Roberto Diaz had thumped Deere Run for a nine-under 62. That had no sooner cooled off than Jhonattan Vegas took the lead with a 62 of his own. Vegas then slipped to a punishing 76, leaving the third-round lead to Cameron Tringale (65) and Andrew Landry (67) at 197.

Frittelli trailed all the way, and going into the final round he was one of a crowd of eight within two strokes of co-leaders Tringale and Langley. Frittelli then proceeded to blitz the start for three straight birdies — at No. 1, a 128-yard wedge to four feet; at No. 2, a flip wedge to two feet, and at the par-three No. 3, an 18-foot putt. He got his fourth birdie from six feet at No. 8, and at the par-five 10th, he chipped in, matching birdies with Henley,
who had re-ignited his game and was on this way to a 61. Frittelli grabbed the lead for good at the 11th holing a 20-footer for birdie.

One more birdie locked it up for Frittelli. At the par-five 17th, he finessed a downhill bunker shot to 11 feet, and holed the putt, then parred the 18th uneventfully for a 64, a 21-under 263 and a two-stroke victory.

Frittelli credited the win to what he termed “mentality clarity,” thanks to Brunza. “Just been carrying a lot of weight on my shoulders, what with keeping a card in Europe, a card here,” he said. “So the fact that I could quiet my mind and just relax and focus on the task at hand … plan for this week was just to be creative and have fun.”

Not that it was easy, Frittelli hastened to add. “But it felt a whole lot easier than it has been the last few weeks,” said the golfer who had learned to smile at three-putts.


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