Jerry Kelly and Steve Stricker haven’t played their best golf in 2019 for vastly different reasons. The one thing the Madison residents have in common is that they’d like to get back on track this week in Tucson, Arizona.
Kelly, the tournament host of the PGA Tour Champions’ Cologuard Classic at Omni Tucson National and a Cologuard brand ambassador, revealed Thursday in a pre-tournament news conference that he underwent a procedure on his right elbow on Feb. 11.
Three days earlier, he’d shot an 81 and missed the 54-hole cut at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on the PGA Tour. He said Arthur De Luigi performed the non-surgical procedure at the Mayo Clinic Arizona in Tempe.
“I mean, I called from Monterey and said I can’t even hang onto the golf club and by Monday morning 8 a.m. they had me in there getting it done,” Kelly said.
The procedure was a prolotherapy and PRP, used to treat acute and chronic injuries. It involves injections of platelet rich plasma into damaged or weakened areas of a joint. The result is a controlled inflammatory response that stimulates the body’s repair mechanisms.
The 52-year-old Kelly said he hadn’t been able to practice coming into the Cologuard Classic but played nine holes Tuesday and then played in the 18-hole pro-am Wednesday.
“Normally, I’d hit balls and work out in my basement off the mat and I thought the mat was probably a pretty bad idea for me,” he said. “So, I waited until I got to grass; it gives way a little bit more. The first day, it was kind of discouraging because of the pain but as I’ve gone through this, the pain hasn’t gotten any worse and my strength has probably gotten stronger.”
In November, Kelly underwent surgery for a torn meniscus in his knee shortly after the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship. He has had ongoing issues with the elbow and it flared up again this year.
He has made just one start on the Champions tour in 2019, finishing in a tie for third as the defending champion of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai in January.
Asked if he thought he could contend this week, Kelly said, “I know I can contend. Absolutely.”
Stricker is making his first start since being named captain of the 2020 U.S. Ryder Cup team on Feb. 20 in Milwaukee. He is the defending champion of the Cologuard Classic, the first of his three PGA Tour Champions victories.
Stricker, 52, admitted that the distractions swirling around him in recent weeks, plus an uncooperative putter, have contributed to mediocre results in 2019.
In three starts on the PGA Tour, he has tied for 73rd at the Sony Open in Hawaii, missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and tied for 61st at Pebble Beach. In his two Champions tour starts, he tied for 29th at Hualalai and tied for 11th at the Chubb Classic in Naples, Florida.
“You know, it’s been a weird season so far,” Stricker said. “I haven’t really done very well. I had a hard time getting the ball in the hole. Been working hard. Things are starting to come together, starting to see some more positive things, hitting the ball OK. But it’s been the putter, really. The first part of the season here, the first five or six tournaments I played in, I haven’t really putted that well.”
Asked what he’s done to address his putting, Stricker said, “Just continue to work at it. That’s the only thing I really know how to do. Stay positive, believe I’m a good putter and I’ve done it before and I’ve gone through little ups and downs with my putting before. Everybody does in this game.”
He said balancing his Ryder Cup responsibilities with his performance between the ropes will be a challenge but one he’s more than willing to undertake.
“I’m busier already,” he said. “It’s been a busy couple of months already, just trying to get things in line for the announcement last week, and then since the announcement there’s been a lot going on, which is what I expected.
“So, I’ll have to manage that better if I want to play good. That’s the bottom line. That’s my focus, is to manage that because I still enjoy playing and competing and trying to win golf tournaments. But I’m looking forward to the challenge and being part of that process.”
Kelly said his friend will make a great Ryder Cup captain.
“His accomplishments that he’s had, as great as they are, I think the respect that the older and the younger players have for this man is what’s going to bind them together more than anything,” Kelly said. “It’s not that ‘fear’ respect. They just respect him as a man and as a player, and I think that makes a huge difference and I think he’s really going to be able to get all those guys coming together.
“He is extremely, extremely strong-minded in competition. You see him as a great guy, always doing all the requests, doing everything you ask of him, but once you get inside the ropes, he’s a killer. He can hang with Tiger (Woods’) mentality in a heartbeat and Tiger knows that and that’s why Tiger’s become friends with him, because there’s really no weakness there. He’s very strong.”