HONOLULU, Hawaii -- The first week of a new calendar year on the PGA Tour always brings out the proverbial glass half-full/half-empty debate between Jerry Kelly and his wife, Carol.
“My wife, she would cry at the end of every year thinking about next year,” Kelly said this week. “She’d say ‘You’re in last place. You’ve got to work your way up again.’ Me? I’m in first place starting the year, I’m in first place. I’ve got nowhere to go but down, but I’m tied with everybody (for first) in the first tournament. That’s the mentality. That’s the adrenaline factor for me.”
And, through 36 holes of the Sony Open in Hawaii, the Madison golfer is riding the wave of adrenaline like an ocean wave.
Kelly birdied the final two holes to finish off a 3-under-par 67 in the second round and reach the halfway point of the first full-field event of the PGA Tour season at 7-under 133. He is tied for 12th place, six shots behind leader Brian Harmon, who followed up his opening-round 64 with a 7-under 63 to open a three shot lead on five other golfers bunched at 10-under, including 2009 champ Zach Johnson.
Unlike Thursday’s opening round, when birdies came in bunches for Kelly at the start of his round, patience was critical Friday starting on the back nine with seven pars and a bogey (No. 14) before he birdied No. 18 to make the turn in even-par 35. A birdie at No. 2 was his only birdie amid a sea of pars over the first seven holes on the front before his birdie-birdie finish.
And if it seemed like Kelly’s finish was his way avoiding what was chasing him Friday, that’s just the way the 2002 Sony Open in Hawaii champion is wired to perform this time of year. This is the 16th time he's made the cut here in 21 career starts.
“I was always stressed about going backwards,” Kelly told reporters this week, vowing to never change his approach, even with limited starts on the regular tour, now that the 51-year-old has become a regular and a force on the PGA Tour Champions. “I needed that adrenaline. I needed that reason to do something and it was looking over my shoulder, not going backwards.”
Menomonee Falls native Mark Wilson rallied with a 2-under 68, but missed the 36-hole cut by three shots, his 12th missed cut in his last 13 starts on the PGA Tour. His 68, however, was a sign that perhaps better days are ahead; it was just his fifth sub-70 round in his last 26 stroke-play rounds on Tour.
Wilson has a sponsor's exemption into next week's Career Builder Challenge in La Quinta, California.
Meanwhile, veteran Matt Every -- with Middleton native Jon Turcott as his caddie -- followed up his opening-round 65 with a 71 and dropped 30 spots into a tie for 37th place.