ILLINOIS - South African Dylan Frittelli shot a bogey-free, six-under-par 65 to reach 14-under par in the third round of the John Deere Classic PGA Tour event at TPC Deere Run, in Illinois, on Saturday.
He was tied for fifth and within two of leaders Andrew Landry (67) and Cameron Tringale (65).
But it was his wild adventures on the eighth hole, including an unusual and fortuitous ruling, that took up most of his post-round interview.
“Yeah, it's a way of using the rules to your benefit,” Frittelli said.
Frittelli, 153rd in the FedExCup, got his unusual ruling at the par-four eighth hole, where he lost his drive into the trees, the ball coming to rest 235 metres away in the right rough. His second shot, from 149, cleared the right greenside bunker, but barely, stopping in the short rough barely over the top lip of the trap.
It was a lie no one wants, calling for a shot almost no one practices. Frittelli had no stance if he went with his natural right-handed swing, the ball (in the grass) well above his feet (in the sand). If he tried to hit the ball that way, he could easily have whiffed or done a backward somersault into the sand. Or both.
Conversely, standing above the bunker would mean either turning the club over to make a lefty swing or facing opposite the hole and taking a backward, croquet-style swing with the club in his right hand. Frittelli was exploring these options when he realised there was something under his feet just above the bunker: a sprinkler head.
“I wouldn't have called the referee if I didn't truly think I could have played the shot that way,” said Frittelli. “… I was standing right on a sprinkler head. The ref agreed with me. He said, ‘Sure, it's definitely a plausible shot. It's not conventional obviously but it's plausible,’ so he gave me relief.”
But his adventure wasn’t over yet.
“My drop was then a club length away,” Frittelli continued. “Rolled back towards the sprinklers; now playing right-handed, I was standing on the sprinklers again, so needed to take relief for the right-handed shot from the same sprinkler and then go one more club length, and ended up in the sort of first-cut area where I could have a much easier chip shot than where I was.”
After all that, from 51 feet, Frittelli chipped to 13 inches and made the par putt.
Frittelli, who birdied four of his first five holes, has made 13 cuts in 19 starts but has just three top-25 finishes this season. The big difference at TPC Deere Run: Although he came into this week 161st in Strokes Gained: Putting, the two-time European Tour winner is second (+5.237) in that stat this week.
“Yesterday I made a few,” Frittelli said, “today I made a few, and if I can keep that rolling and the ball-striking remains, it should be a good Sunday.”