PHOENIX -- For Jerry Kelly, the Charles Schwab Cup finale is all about staying healthy.

The Madison golfer was glad to report that, for seven holes, he felt like the old Jerry Kelly again and that leg and back problems that have plagued him since the start of the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs weren’t much of a factor. Kelly fought through the 11 holes when the pain started to flare up again and, at the end of a drop-dead gorgeous day at Phoenix CC, found himself in  reasonably good health as it related to his status on the first-round leaderboard.

Kelly, who came into the weekend No. 6 on the Charles Schwab Cup money list, birdied two of his last four holes to shoot a 3-under-par 68 and sit in a five-way tie for 12th place. With 36 holes remaining in his rookie season on the PGA Tour Champions, Kelly is four shots off the pace set by Vijay Singh, Paul Goydos and Lee Janzen, who each shot 7-under 64s.

“I felt almost healthy for seven holes, so that was a good thing,” Kelly said after hitting 11 of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens. “But (the pain) came back and I was protecting and everything went left. I flipped the club and had no body to support it. It’s disappointing, but it’s better than it’s been the last three weeks. Hopefully, I’ll come out and get a low one the next two days.”

Kelly had his opportunities to take it low Friday.

After missing a good birdie chance at the par-5 first hole, he birdied the par-3 second hole and added  another birdie at the par-4 fifth hole to get to 2-under. He bogeyed No. 6 to drop back to 1-under and then couldn’t buy a birdie over the next eight holes (all pars), finally breaking the drought on the par-3 15th hole when he hit his tee shot on the 178-yard hole to 8 feet for birdie.

“It’s disappointing; I missed some short ones and I pulled most of my irons shots,” said Kelly, who got up-and-down from left of the green on the par-5 18th to climb into the top 15. “I needed to take advantage of the short ones and I didn’t. But it’s late in the year; my body has had it.”

His mind, however, has clear picture of what he needs to do to solve mathematical complexities of the Charles Schwab Cup standings. He needs to win and have Charles Schwab Cup points leader Bernhard Langer finish in a tie for second or worse (he is currently tied for 28th).

“I just have to make putts,” Kelly said. “And so far that hasn’t happened.”


Rob started covering the Wisconsin golf scene in 1987 at the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison & has been the only reporter covering all levels of state golf. He joined Killarney Golf Media in Sept. 2015 & helped launch Wisconsin.Golf in Jan. 2016.