U.S. SENIOR OPEN
He’s Trending: Jerry Kelly Looks to Raise Another Trophy
June 28, 2019 | South Bend, Ind.
By Dave Shedloski
Call it momentum. Call it trending. Call it simply riding a wave of confidence. Whatever it is that has Jerry Kelly playing some of his best golf in memory – and certainly his best golf since he turned 50 years old – he hopes that you just don't call it over.
The last player to win the U.S. Senior Open after winning the week before was Bernhard Langer in 2010. Kelly is looking to add his name to the list.
Winner in his native Wisconsin last week at the American Family Insurance Championship, Kelly began the U.S. Senior Open Thursday with a 6-under 64 that was good for a share of third place. It marks the fifth straight round that Kelly has resided in the top three of the leader board in this championship. Despite a sinus infection, he led for each of the first three rounds last year at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., before being overtaken by David Toms.
“I've been trending for a solid five tournaments, so it's not like it was just last week,” Kelly, 52, said after a round that featured seven birdies against one bogey, the result of an overly aggressive three-putt green at No. 7. “I know I've been playing well. I've got a pretty good foundation of what I want to do with the swing.”
Actually, the victory at the AmFam Championship, where he beat fellow Madison native Steve Stricker and recent Hall of Fame inductee Retief Goosen in a playoff, was the culmination of a run that began in mid-April at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship when a final-round 67 earned him a tie for second place. Since then he has finished no worse than T-7 only once in the next six starts, that coming at the Regions Tradition, where he was T-12.
So when he tees off in today’s second round at 8:58 a.m. EDT, he’ll carry high expectations for another low score, which he figures he’ll need on the rain-softened Warren Golf Course at Notre Dame.
“It would be nice to get a really low one in there and separate yourself like these guys already have a little bit. So, you need a low one to catch up, and then you keep pace.”
A low score isn’t done with his full swing, which is a work in progress for Kelly for the last two years.
“When you start shooting scores like that, it's making putts,” said the 2017 PGA Tour Champions Rookie of the Year. “I mean, it's one thing hitting the fairway, hitting the greens, but you've still got to finish that off and make the putt. I think we're looking forward to getting to some smooth greens in the morning and see if we can't make a few more.”
Kelly was asked if his confidence was at an all-time high. He demurred.
“I don't know about all-time high,” he countered. “I've still got … there's always demons in my head, you know. I've got sort of five personalities in there that want to come out. It's just keeping them down for a while. I've had a fairly quiet mind, and really I think that's because I'm understanding my body and feel pretty good about what I'm working on with my swing right now.”
Kelly said he “accepts his game for what it is.” Later he added, “I like where I’m at.”
He wasn’t referring to the leader board, though he’s at a good place there. He was talking about his disposition and his mindset. His confidence might not be at an all-time high, but he is, well … trending.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based writer whose work appears regularly on USGA digital channels.