It was around 8:25 a.m. when Dylan Frittelli stepped onto the first tee for the opening round of the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale on July 20. And the nerves of playing in his very first major had come full-circle for the former Longhorn.
Not doing him any favors to help quell those nerves, a camera went off before Frittelli could even take the club and begin his backswing. He backed off, regrouped, then stepped back in.
Just as he readied to begin again, a golf cart drove by, forcing Frittelli to back off once more. Maybe it was bad luck, or maybe the golf gods were trying to remind Frittelli that this was his first major, a culmination of everything he had ever worked for in his golfing life.
“It was tough to get that first tee shot away,” Frittelli said. “I was pretty nervous. I managed to steady myself and get it off the tee.”
In the past year, Frittelli has found a groove on the European Tour. After a near-victory at the Volvo China Open in April — which Frittelli lost in a playoff to finish second — the South African won for the first time in June at the Lyoness Open in Austria.
“It’s just a culmination of probably two-and-a-half years of hard, diligent work,” Frittelli said. “It’s just a matter of time before you figure out what to do. You put yourself in that situation enough, you’re gonna figure out a way to win.”
A tied-14th finish at the BMW International Open two weeks later secured Frittelli a spot in the Open Championship. But Frittelli’s major debut was forgettable. He missed the cut after shooting rounds of 73 and 75 in difficult weather conditions, while his former Longhorn teammate Jordan Spieth delivered an epic performance to capture his third major.
It was just five years ago when Spieth and Frittelli led Texas to its third men’s golf national title, with Frittelli drilling a 30-foot birdie putt on the final hole to seal the deal for the Longhorns. Since then, Spieth has risen to superstardom on the PGA Tour, while Frittelli has played all across the eastern hemisphere and grinded his way to a No. 84 world ranking.
While Spieth will bid for the career grand slam next week at the PGA Championship in North Carolina, Frittelli will make his second career start in a major. It will also mark the first time Frittelli has played a professional tournament in the United States.
Frittelli says his goal is to eventually move back to the United States and play on the PGA Tour. He believes he’s only “two or three” years away.
But golf is a next-shot game; dwelling on the past or looking too deep into the future is not a recipe for success. Frittelli’s focus at the moment is to shoot a solid score at the PGA Championship, then finishing out the year strong on the European Tour.
“Just a little bit of good golf can go a long way to setting myself up for next year,” Frittelli said.