PALM BEACH GARDENS, FLA. (December 17, 2014) – After being bumped out of the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Order of Merit top 5 in the very last event of the 2014 season, 10 days ago, Rick Cochran III was heartbroken. He had been the only player ranked inside ‘Los Cinco’ for the entire season, which made it a tough pill to swallow.
“I really, really wanted to stay in the top 5 in Latin America. That was a goal of mine and it honestly hurt, it really hurt not staying in the top 5, but like I say, everything happens for a reason and I was able to get it done at Q-School,” said Cochran, who found redemption on Tuesday with a solo seventh place finish at the Web.com Tour’s Qualifying Tournament.
The 28-year old from Paducah, Kentucky led a group of 10 PGA TOUR Latinoamérica members who secured solid Web.com Tour status for 2015 by finishing the 108-hole event inside the top 45.
Cochran, who held the outright lead through 54 holes, posted rounds of 66-67-70-69-73-69 to finish the week at 15-under 414.
“It is a great accomplishment. I played really well this week and it does feel good to stay in that top 10. Honestly, I just put my head down and just tried to make birdies this week,” he said about his performance at PGA National Resort and Spa.
His 17-tournament season on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, where he collected four runner-up finishes on his first seven starts, had a very positive impact on Cochran.
“I learned so much playing that Tour this year that I’ll never forget it. Hopefully, it will keep inspiring me upward,” he said.
"I had so many close calls on winning, under pressure, and I didn’t handle it well. I really do believe that it gave me the strength and I learned a lot about myself and that allowed me to play well this week.”
Rick didn’t run short of family support this week. His uncle Russ Cochran, a PGA TOUR and Champions Tour winner, dropped by on Tuesday to be among the first to congratulate him. Russ’ son Ryan, who regularly caddies for him on the Champions Tour, contributed to the cause by caddying for his cousin Rick.
“It was a really good feeling to have my uncle there when I finished with my round to semi celebrate. It’s good because uncle Russ means a lot to me, he’s helped me out so much,” Cochran said about his uncle, who has always been a positive role model for him.
A big year is definitely ahead of Rick and his wife Christa, who are expecting the birth of their first son George Richard Cochran IV. With January 24th as his due date, right before the start of the Web.com Tour season, the Cochrans will have plenty to be excited about in 2015.
Medalist: Canada’s Brad Fritsch carded a 5-under 66 at the Champion course and coasted to a dominating win in the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament. Fritsch assumed control of the six-day grind over the weekend with back-to-back 65s that distanced him from the pack. His lead was six shots after four rounds and five heading into Tuesday’s finale. His 27-under total of 402 was seven shots better than rookie Andrew Landry, who birdied the final hole for a 3-under 68 and solo second.
Top-10: Dallas’ Cody Gribble and Germany’s Stephan Jaeger finished a stroke behind Rick Cochran in a two-way tie for eighth to make a trio of PGA TOUR Latinoamérica members inside the top 10.
Coddy Gribble: He chalked up eight birdies en route to a 6-under 65 on the Champion course and grabbed a top-10 finish. Gribble, a 2013 graduate of the University of Texas who had three top-25 finishes in 9 PGA TOUR Latinoamérica starts this season, wound up at 14 under. Gribble made steady progress up the leaderboard after opening with rounds of 73-72 to put him T90. He closed with scores of 68-68-69-65 and moved to T68, T36, T28 and finally T8.
Stephan Jaeger: The 25-year old from Munich, Germany made a mad dash to the finish Tuesday. He was 1-over for the day when he made the turn on the Champion course. He turned the tables with a 7-under 29 on the back nine that vaulted him from 7 under to 14 under. His closing round of 65 was enough to push him to T8 after starting the day T28. Jaeger had one top 10 and four top 25s in 12 starts this season on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.
Exempt Status: Cochran, Gribble and Jaeger will be exempt until the third periodic re-order of the 2015 season. Seven other PGA TOUR Latinoamérica members finished inside the top 45 and will be exempt until the second periodic re-order.
Jorge Fernández Valdés: A native of Cordoba, Argentina, Fernández Valdés was the leading Latin American player this week. The 22-year old entered this final day in a tie for seventh with Cochran, but posted a 1-over 72 at the Champion course to drop into a tie for the 14th spot. Fernández Valdés, who won the Chile Open last month, had finished the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica season ranked No. 5 in the Order of Merit to join Los Cinco who secured Web.com Tour status. He came looking to improve his status and the 14th place finish certainly helped him achieve that goal.
Top-45. The following were the positions and scores for the group of 10 PGA TOUR Latinoamérica members who finished inside the top 45:
7. Rick Cochran III (USA) 66-67-70-69-73-69--414 (-15)
T8. Cody Gribble (USA) 73-72-68-68-69-65--415 (-14)
T8. Stephan Jaeger (Germany) 69-73-70-69-69-65--415 (-14)
T14. Jorge Fernández Valdés (Argentina) 69-71-69-69-67-72--417 (-12)
T16. Tyler Duncan (USA) 70-71-71-70-68-68--418 (-11)
T21. Brady Schnell (USA) 70-71-70-73-66-69--419 (-10)
T21. Hugo León (Chile) 73-69-68-70-71-68--419 (-10)
T28. Jhared Hack (USA) 68-72-71-69-70-70--420 (-9)
T28. Chris Gilman (USA) 68-69-71-69-70-73--420 (-9)
T35. Erik Barnes (USA) 71-72-66-69-72-71--421 (-8)
At this same event a year ago only three PGA TOUR Latinoamérica members were able to finish inside the top 45. The increase to 10 players inside the top 45 speaks highly about the level of competition the Tour provides only three years after being launched by the PGA TOUR.