Kelly closing in on first title since 2002
NEW ORLEANS – Jerry Kelly shot a bogey-free 3-under 69 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the Zurich Classic.
Kelly, the 42-year-old Wisconsin player who won his two PGA Tour titles in 2002, made two birdies on the front nine, one on the back, a steady round that kept him front of the surging, then slipping players chasing him
“My goal was to be comfortable,” said Kelly, who withdrew from the Verizon Heritage last week because of the flu and a dislocated rib that caused severe back pain. “I’m not going to force shots.”
When he got into trouble Saturday, Kelly said he “played smart.” He credited that, and an improved, but not perfect swing with his spot at the top of the leaderboard.
“I just try to be comfortable with what I’ve got,” Kelly said.
Kelly knew how close his opponents got.
“I’m always aware of where I stand,” he said. “I look at the leaderboards. I like to know those things. I don’t like surprises coming at me.”
Kelly had 13-under 203 total at TPC Louisiana. He opened with rounds of 68 and 68.
Steve Marino made the strongest move of the day, using eight birdies to offset two bogeys and a double bogey. Marino moved to 11 under before a bogey on the par-5 18th dropped him to 10 under, still good enough to give him sole possession of second place.
“It came out real hot and went over the green,” said Marino, who finished with a 68. “That’s the last place you want to be. I ended up making six. But I played well all day, and I look forward to more.”
Marino’s best finish was a second last year at the Mayakoba Golf Classic.
Five players – Rod Pampling (68), Aaron Watkins (69), Charles Howell III (70), John Rollins (71) and Charlie Wi (71) – were tied for third at 9 under. Howell and Wi moved to 10 under, but both bogeyed No. 17.
Pampling got in trouble on 12 with a double bogey.
“Trust me, I wasn’t very happy,” Pampling said. “You know, hitting a 5-wood and the ball plugs, you’re never too happy after that. But I’d been playing good. I hadn’t made too many mistakes.”
The tough Pete Dye-designed course, pin placement, and swirling wind that was made unpredictable by trees on the course, all contributed to problems, players said.
“It’s very difficult with the wind conditions,” said Wi, who had the first-round lead. “Especially on 17, you get it next to the water. And you make mistakes there.”
David Toms (72) was 8 under along with Jeff Overton (68), Joe Ogilvie (69), Roland Thatcher (70), Rory Sabbatini (71), Kevin Stadler (71) and John Merrick (72).
“I wasn’t making birdies and I got kind of behind,” Toms said. “I needed to make some shots and play smart and play the golf course like you have to.”
Stadler, who finished with a triple bogey, gained entry into the tournament as a Monday qualifier when he shot a 66 at the Bridges Golf Club in Bay St. Louis, Miss.
Stadler is a conditional player after finishing 145th on last year’s money list.
Kelly said the back condition that caused severe pain last week, has subsided. “And having the lead going into the final round did not mean pressure, Kelly said.
“I fully intend to be able to sleep tonight,” he said. “And I fully intend to come out and try to enjoy the round tomorrow. I’m going to have fun and see what happens.”