PHOENIX -- His second shot on the very first hole at Phoenix CC spoke volumes for the level of Jerry Kelly’s level of frustration Saturday at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
Trying to reach the green in two on the 511-yard, par-5, the Madison golfer pulled his approach deep and left of the green, behind the ginormous trunk of a towering palm tree. He chopped his third shot out of that tough spot to the fringe, chipped his next one to about 6 feet and missed the putt for a bogey 6 on a traditional layout that had yielded more than twice as many birdies (161) than bogeys (61) on Day 1 and was poised for yet another birdie-fest in the valley of the sun.
Unfortunately for Kelly, still fighting back and leg pain, it got worse before it got better.
He hit his tee shot on the 164-yard second hole into a greenside pond, took a double-bogey 5 and shot 40 on the front nine. Kelly rallied valiantly over the final four holes with birdies on three of them to salvage a 2-over-par 73 that left him tied for 30th and effectively ended what hopes he had of winning the Charles Schwab Cup in his rookie season on the PGA Tour Champions.
“With my injuries, I changed my swing,” said Kelly, who -- at 141 -- fell nine shots back of leader Paul Goydos (66). “Had to use my hips. Never good for me. I lost the club. (I) felt stronger and went back to what hurt me, but was producing. It hurt, but it shows where I need to get stronger.”
Kelly showed his mental game is as strong as ever.
After bogeys at Nos. 9 and 11 dropped him to 5-over, Kelly parred his way to the15th hole and birdied the par-3 for the second day in a row. After a par at No. 16, he finished birdie-birdie and showed those closest to him that despite, his physical challenges, Kelly still has plenty of fight.
“You watch him at the end of the round and the guy just has heart, you know what I mean?” said Jim Schuman, who is Kelly’s brother-in-law and swing coach. “He’s not going to let it go south. He’s going to figure out a way to do something. I feel bad for him because he’s hurting and he’s got figure out a way to get it around. He wants to be competitive, but he’s always been that way.
“And then you add in the fact that this is the end of the season for them, he’s out there battling.”
Schuman expects Kelly, a lock for rookie of the year on the senior circuit, to battle the best that he can one more day. The two huddled with Dr. Harry Sese, Kelly’s trainer, to discuss what they saw in his game down the stretch and what kind of swing will get him through Sunday’s final round.
“I want Jim and Harry to hopefully see what I’ve been doing well before the injuries,” said Kelly, who will play the last round with American Family Insurance Championship winner Fred Couples. “If it comes out right, I’ll have a great game plan for next year that I can work on all ... off-season.”