Germany’s Florian Fritsch carded a stunning seven under par 65 in the second round to take a share of the lead at The European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage.
The 25 year old fired six birdies and an eagle over the Stadium Course to reach eight under par overall and lead four players - Liam Bond, Espen Kofstad, George Coetzee and first round leader Steve Lewton – by one shot at PGA Catalunya Resort, where heavy frost at the weekend delayed the completion of the first round.
“I just holed a bunch of putts on my front nine,” said Fritsch, who is a good friend of recently crowned European Number One Martin Kaymer. “My round today was a culmination of good shots, partial luck and a bunch of good putts. This is my third time here and I’ve missed the cut twice so I’m hoping for a lucky third time.”
Fritsch admitted he has struggled with the mental side of the game, not helped by his fear of flying.
“I’m afraid of flying and this year it got to the point where I had to stop playing,” he said. “I quit at the beginning of the year because I didn’t want to play anymore. It was decreasing my quality of life so much that I thought it wasn’t worth it. I took up another job for eight months using my college training in sports management but realised it wasn’t for me.
“I decided to play the last few events and played well in Toulouse, finishing fifth. I decided to go back to Q School and got through second stage and we’ll see what happens. I’m not aiming for anything. I was so result-orientated before so I’m not even thinking about it. My time away made me grow up as a golfer and a human being.”
Coetzee, who won his European Tour card at Qualifying School last year and came 126th in The 2010 Race to Dubai, enjoyed a magnificent finish over the Tour Course. Having teed off from the tenth, he was one over par after seven holes but then had three consecutive birdies as his round sparked into life. He birdied the fourth, bogeyed the fifth, then ended with a stunning run of birdie, eagle, birdie birdie for an inward 29.
“I got off to a bit of a rough start today, but I told myself to stay patient and it worked out well for me in the end,” said Coetzee. “I holed out from off the green four times today, twice with putts and twice with chips, on the 17th and 18th. It often happens when you least expect it to, but I’ll certainly take it today.
“I played well here last year to finish 16th and get my Tour card but didn’t really make the most of it. It was quite a good year financially, but I didn’t achieve any of the goals I set out at the start of the season. But hopefully I can get my card back and make better use of it next time. I feel like I’m good enough to compete out there, but need to prove it.”
Kofstad’s round was nearly as impressive, eight birdies in a 64 on the Tour Course marred only by a double bogey at the par three eighth.
“Other than the double bogey on the eighth hole, I’ve got to be very happy with a round like that,” said the Norwegian. “I shanked it off the tee and it hit the trees, then I went through the back of the green with my second and three-putted from there. Most of my other putts were from inside 15 feet and I had a few tap-ins for birdie, so my irons were working well.
“I didn’t really feel comfortable in the first round, but today was a different story – the game felt much easier. I only turned professional after Stage Two after playing college golf at Denver University, so I’m very new to the pro game and I’ve still got a lot to learn.”
Bond, who produced an impressive finish on the Stadium Course, said: “It was a tougher day today with the wind but I played really well. I had an eagle on 15 – drive, six iron to 20ft and holed it – which was nice to get me under par for the day, taking me to two under. I dropped one on the par three 16th and thought I’ll just try to get in under par, and then to birdie the last two was brilliant. They are two tough holes too. The finish here is great.
“I holed an absolute bomb on the last there. Must have been 35ft down the slope. It’s such a long week that you just want to keep putting yourself in position and hang around. You’re not trying to win it like at any other tournament, you’ve just got to keep sniffing around and stay in position.”
Lewton, a friend of Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter and winner of Second Qualifying Stage at Arcos Gardens, found the Stadium Course tougher going than yesterday’s Tour Course, carding a level par 72 after a 63 in the first round.
“I was two over after four holes after making two silly bogeys on the 11th and 13th, so I was just trying to hang in there a bit at that point,” he said. “But then the two birdies on 15 and 16 got me going. It was quite difficult judging distances in the wind today, but the main problem was my putting, so I’ll go and work on that on the practice green.”