Kelly Leads Big Easy Reappears

By Sports NetworkApril 12, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 Verizon HeritageHILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Jerry Kelly, fresh off a top-five finish at last week's Masters, fired an 8-under-par 63 on Thursday to lead by two after the first round of the Verizon Heritage.
 
Kelly had an impressive Masters, including an under-par round on Sunday, while the man in second place did not have a good showing at Augusta National Golf Club.
 
Jerry Kelly
Jerry Kelly reacts after missing a birdie putt on the 18th hole. (WireImage)
Ernie Els, a three-time major champion, posted a 6-under-par 65 Thursday at Harbour Town Golf Links and is alone in second place.
 
'Whatever happened in the past, you can't bring it back,' said Els, who missed his first cut in a major championship since the 1999 PGA Championship. 'For some reason, I wasn't there mentally. I felt I needed to focus on my game this week.'
 
The only player in the field this week who played better than Kelly at the Masters was winner Zach Johnson. His first round as a major winner was a 1-under 70, which put him in a tie for 20th place.
 
On this day, however, it was Kelly who came out on top.
 
Kelly began on the back nine Thursday and parred his first hole before a run of birdies. At the 11th, he hit an 8-iron to 5 feet to set up birdie, then made back-to-back birdies when his 8-iron approach landed him even closer than that on 11. Kelly racked up his third straight birdie thanks to an 18-footer at 13.
 
He hit his tee ball into the water at the 14th, but got up and down easily for what Kelly characterized as an 'easy bogey.' From there, Kelly played spectacularly with a pair of 20-footers for birdie at 15 and 16.
 
Kelly continued his great run on the front side. He knocked a wedge to a foot to set up the tap-in birdie at one, then missed the green with his second at the par-5 second. Kelly pitched his third to 4 feet and holed the birdie putt to reach 6 under par for the championship.
 
Kelly parred the third, then hit a 5-iron to 15 feet at the par-3 fourth. He drained the birdie putt and got up and down from in front of the green for a birdie at the par-5 fifth. Kelly played a 7-iron to 4 feet to set up his 10th birdie of the round at the sixth.
 
He was 9 under par with three holes to play, but things went downhill quickly. At the par-4 eighth, Kelly drove into the rough, then hit his second into the bunker. He could not get up and down for par, so that dropped his early lead to two.
 
'It was a solid ball-striking day and a solid putting day,' acknowledged Kelly. 'I had a lot of kick-ins, but I made some 20-footers, which was a good combination.'
 
Kelly is certainly one of the hottest players in the field this week, based on his finish last week at Augusta National. His tie for fifth at the Masters was his best finish of the year, and Kelly actually saw some similarities in his play from this week and last.
 
'I played no different. I putted similar, struck it similar, up-and-downs,' said Kelly, who shot a final-round, 2-under 70 at the Masters. 'I wouldn't put this golf course that far away from Augusta, but it just shows how difficult Augusta was that I felt just as good shooting 70 as I did shooting eight-under here.'
 
Els flew out of the gate with a birdie and an eagle over his first two holes. He birdied the par-5 fifth, but missed a short par putt at the eighth. The South African tapped in a short birdie putt at nine to get to 4 under par for the tournament.
 
On the second nine, Els rolled in a 14-foot birdie putt, then had makable birdie chances at both 15 and 16. At the par-3 17th, Els missed the green with his tee ball, but he holed out from the bunker to move into solo second.
 
Jose Coceres, the 2001 champion, and Stephen Leaney share third place at 5- under-par 66.
 
Fred Funk, Stewart Cink, Kevin Na, Boo Weekley and J.P. Hayes are knotted in fifth place at 4-under-par 67.
 
Defending champion Aaron Baddeley is among the group tied for 20th with Johnson.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard
  • Full Coverage - Verizon Heritage
  • GOLF CHANNEL Airtimes
  • Getty Images

    Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

    Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

    RISING

    Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

    Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

    Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

    Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

    New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



    FALLING

    Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

    Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

    Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

    Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

    Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

    Getty Images

    Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

    By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

    “I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

    Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

    “If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


    Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


    Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

    Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

    “He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

    As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

    "I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

    Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

    Getty Images

    McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

    The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

    McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

    And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

    “I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

    Getty Images

    Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

    No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

    Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

    With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

    “This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

    Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.