Dylan Frittelli is hoping he can build on his long-awaited return to the DP World Tour winner’s circle by continuing South African golf’s good record at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, which begins today at the Doha Golf Club.
The 33-year-old ended a six-year wait for his third European Tour title with a two-shot victory at last week’s Bahrain Championship. Frittelli later revealed he contemplated giving up golf during a difficult 2023 as he lost his full playing privileges on the PGA Tour last season after missing the cut or withdrawing from 23 events. He now returns to Doha Golf Club for the first time since 2017 with his sights set on becoming the sixth South African to lift the Mother of Pearl trophy since the inception of the Qatar Masters in 1998. “I remember watching as a kid this tournament,” he said.
“Seeing (Retief Goosen) Ernie Els do well. I still remember Retief eagling the last hole (to win in 2017), he had a putt from the fringe early morning on a Sunday sometime when I was probably 12-13 years old. So, good memories of seeing that stuff on TV. I don’t know if there is something in the course conditioning that favours South Africans in some way. We have got a lot of good players from our country anyway so hopefully one of us wins this week.”
Since taking up a route back onto the European Tour for those who finished outside the top 125 on the FedExCup Fall Points List, Fritelli secured two top 20s in his first six starts of the season. With only five places per event available to players in that category, he was unsure of his spot in fields on the European Tour but victory in Bahrain means he is exempt until the end of the 2025 season.
“It is great to have some security,” added the University of Texas alumnus. “For a couple of years, I know I can come out here and play any event that I want pretty much. I can plan my schedule pretty much now to have some down time and take some time off.
“It is kind of tough living in America, playing all around Europe, Asia and the Middle East but I can definitely control things a little more now. I am excited because now I have the option of (playing in) every tournament on the European Tour so I can pick the ones that I really enjoy and build a schedule that complements my game.”
Following his first professional win since the 2019 John Deere Classic on the PGA TOUR, Frittelli sits eighth on the Race to Dubai Rankings. And ahead of the final event in the Middle East on the International Swing, he is now reaping the rewards for his perseverance.
“Last year in the States I didn’t even have my C game mentally,” he reflected. “I was really struggling on that side of things so I had to put in a lot of hard work there. Obviously that dovetails with the golf game; the swing, the putting with all the technical stuff too. I knew in my head going into that final nine holes that if I could be close with five or six holes I could definitely use my experience and mental toughness to see me to the end.”
The Qatar Masters, won towards the end of last season by Sami Valimaki as he went on to earn a PGA TOUR card, has a prize fund of $2.5mn with $450,000 500 Race to Dubai ranking points on offer for the winner. While Finland’s Valimaki is not back to defend his title this week, there are a host of past champions in action this week at Doha Golf Club.
In total there are no fewer than eight players who have held aloft the Mother of Pearl Trophy teeing it up. Ewen Ferguson and Antoine Rozner, who won the tournament across back-to-back years in 2022 and 2021 respectively, are joined by Spaniard Jorge Campillo, who has also won the event since the turn of the decade. Before them, Eddie Pepperell and Wang Jeunghun won in 2018 and 2017 respectively, while Ryder Cup player Chris Wood was a winner in 2013 and Alvaro Quiros celebrated success in 2009. South African Darren Fichardt, back on the Tour after progressing from the Final Stage of Qualifying School last year, is the oldest past champion having won in 2003.
Dylan Frittelli ended a six-year wait for his third European Tour title with a two-shot victory at last week’s Bahrain Championship.