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Golf | SA

Dylan Frittelli © Getty Images

Frittelli can set sights even higher after 2017 season

He started the year ranked just outside the top 150 in the world, but Dylan Frittelli has closed off the 2017 European Tour season at 68 on the Official World Golf Ranking, seemingly destined to become South Africa’s number-one ranked player before too long.

Watching him paired with world No 6 Justin Rose down the stretch of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai over the weekend, it was apparent that 27-year-old South African belongs on the big stage.

He’s currently the fourth-highest South African behind Louis Oosthuizen (22nd), Branden Grace (29th) and Charl Schwartzel (33rd).

“I definitely set high goals this year and I’ve achieved a lot of them,” he said in Dubai. “Obviously it’s been a breakout year. It’s been the best one I’ve had as a professional so far. I just hope to keep the form coming.”

His European Tour ranking at end of 2016 was 128. Now he’s moved up 109 positions to 19.

His good form started on home soil at the Joburg Open where he finished in a share of 16th. He followed that up the week after with a share of 12th at the Tshwane Open. Three weeks after that he earned his first top-five finish at the Shenzhen International with a consistent showing of 68, 68, 68 and 70.

The following week he came second at the Volvo China Open, losing in a play-off with France’s Alexander Levy. With his confidence possibly hit, two missed cuts followed – at the BMW PGA Championship and the Nordea Masters.

However, a first European Tour win came at the Lyoness Open in Austria in June where he finished one shot better than England’s David Horsey on 12-under-par.

Following that, he only managed one top-20 until the last three events in the calendar year.

He finished agonisingly close at the Turkish Airlines Open, just one shot back of eventual winner Rose. Two mediocre rounds in the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City gave him a share of 42nd, but he finished the season on a high with a share of fourth at the weekend.

Frittelli was born in Johannesburg, but now resides in Austin, Texas. He is still affiliated to Country Club Johannesburg, however. He played college golf at the University of Texas, where he won the decisive match to lead his team to victory at the 2012 NCAA Championship. It was a championship in which Frittelli’s teammate Jordan Spieth defeated Justin Thomas, so he was keeping pretty impressive company.

Frittelli turned professional after that victory and played on the European Tour via sponsor’s exemptions for the rest of 2012. He started 2013 with a second-place finish in the Sunshine Tour’s Telkom PGA Championship behind Jaco van Zyl and played most of that year on the Challenge Tour, winning his first tour event at the Kärnten Golf Open in June.

Frittelli’s performances in early 2013 lifted him into the world top 300 but he then had two years of poor performances, dropping to 926 in the world rankings. He showed a return to form when losing a playoff for the Australian PGA Championship in late 2015.

2016 was a successful year with second place in the Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open, a tie for second in the Tayto Northern Ireland Open and then a second win on the Challenge Tour in the Rolex Trophy.

In 2017 a tie for second place in the Eye of Africa PGA Championship after a playoff with Erik van Rooyen and Makhetha Mazibuko, and a playoff defeat in the Volvo China Open lifted him into the world top 100 for the first time.

He played in two majors this year. He missed the cut in The Open Championship, but three weeks later, he made it to the weekend in the PGA Championship, finishing in a share of 63rd.

He’s already into The Open next year, and will be licking his lips at the prospect of taking on Carnoustie with more experience under his belt than he had last year – as well as the confidence that his current form brings.

A good start to the 2018 season – that’s in Hong Kong this week for him, followed by the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open – will propel him towards the top 50 in the world and a coveted invitation to the Masters at Augusta National in April.

He will finish his year on the familiar fairways of Randpark Golf Club for the Joburg Open. It was in that tournament that his great 2017 got its kick-start. He could be well on his way to a great 2018 – and the world’s top 20.

He feels he belongs there. “I love playing in front of crowds,” he said. “I love playing with the best players in the world.”


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