PHOENIX — No. No. Yes!
That was Jerry Kelly's reaction to his birdie putt from the fringe on the 16th hole Friday, but — for the second day in a row — it summed up the way things went for the Madison golfer at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, too.
Like the fifth of his six birdies with three holes to play, Kelly's day ended a lot better than it started. He birdied three of his last four holes to finish off a 4-under-par 67 to reach the halfway point of the PGA Tour Champions' season finale at 7-under 135 in a tie for eighth place — seven shots behind leader Paul Goydos, whose bogey-free 65 boosted him to 14-under 128 and left him with a one-stroke lead over 2018 American Family Insurance Championship winner Scott McCarron with 36 holes remaining at Phoenix Country Club.
"Getting over par early really bummed me out," said Kelly, who needs to win and hope Charles Schwab Cup points leader Bernhard Langer finishes worse than a two-way tie for third (he is currently tied for 20th) to win the Charles Schwab Cup. "I'm hitting it OK and putting well. I knew I'd have my chances and I did. How many edges did I burn on that back side? I hit so many good putts that didn't go in, too, but it was nice to make a few of them."
Kelly's day turned around after a bogey at No. 9 undid the work of back-to-back birdies at Nos. 5 and 6 and left him even-par standing on the 10th tee for the second straight day. After a scrambling par at No. 10, he got back to 1-under for the day with a birdie at No. 11 and parred his way to No. 15.
That's where one of the several party suites surrounding greens on the back nine housed one of the more raucous gatherings of fans, including one whom Kelly had given a ball on the front nine. She let Kelly know she still had the ball — in other words, she hadn't lost it as her group toasted the arrival of a Friday afternoon with a few libations — but directed her appreciation toward Kelly's playing partner Colin Montgomerie as he was lining up his putt.
"It was on (No.) 8 and I flared one way right and she said 'Great shot!'" I said 'No, that was really terrible sweatheart.' She felt bad so I gave her a ball right there," said Kelly, who helped quiet the crowd around the 15th green so Montgomerie could putt before he made his birdie putt and left the green to chants of "Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!" from those same fans. "That was funny."
It was almost as comical as what happened on the 16th green, where Kelly — with surgery scheduled next week to repair torn meniscus in his right knee — couldn't get the knee to bend enough to allow him to read his 15-foot birdie putt from the fringe. And then there was his initial reaction to his effort.
"The putt did not break to the right at first like I thought," Kelly explained. "I thought it was going to break left at the end. And it didn't break off at the end. I'm like 'No! It didn't break right. No! Don't break left. Yes! It's in.'"
And after his second birdie in as many days on the par-5 18th hole, Kelly is back in the conversation for book-end victories to his sophomore season on the PGA Tour Champions. Kelly hasn't won since the season opener at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, and knows it will take at least one remarkable round over the final two days at Phoenix CC to get it done.
"It usually gets a little more spread out," he said. "You have to pay attention to the lead and you have to stay within earshot. With two rounds go, it's much better. There is a 10(-under round) out there. I feel there is a 10 out there for me. If I can do that one of the next two days — I'll do it both, but I'm realistic — ... it's out there, but it's a very subtle, very good golf course. I have to hit the driver better. I have to hit my wedges better."