After top 30 finishes at the Cialis Western Open and the Open Championship last month, he fired four rounds of 67 or better in Milwaukee at the U.S. Bank Championship. Only Corey Pavin, in a zone all week, beat him.
Im hitting it great, Kelly told me Monday. I understand why Im hitting it great. Im executing. Im putting great. And I dont feel like its something thats gonna go away.
Those words look arrogant in print. But if you had heard them spoken, you would characterize them more as a display of comfort. Kelly and his coach Jim Schuman, who also happens to be his brother-in-law, have put in a massive amount of work on his game over the last two years.
And, Kelly believes, all the pieces are coming together at the same time. When he swings, as the saying goes, all the boys in the band are playing the same song at the same time.
Now, Kelly says, is the time.
Kelly currently ranks 12th on the U.S. Ryder Cup point standings and a lot of people have questioned his decision to take two weeks off prior to next weeks PGA Championship near Chicago.
Rather, Kelly has placed his focus on being fresh for the years last major where, by the way, Ryder Cup points will doubled.
Monday he drove two hours from his Madison, Wis., home to Medinah where he played a practice round. Then he hopped in his car and drove home. All on the same day. His plan is to do the same again Thursday.
Medinah will play at 7,561 yards, the longest set-up in major championship history. But its not, Kelly said, as long as they were scaring me about.
Mo Norman, the legendary Canadian, used to say that only he and Ben Hogan completely owned their golf swings. Everybody else, Mo insisted, was just renting it.
Kelly isnt saying hes figured it all out. I still get stuck (with the driver) he says. But not as much.
What Kelly is saying is that his form is in such a rich vein that hes striving, in a confident way, to play well at Medinah rather than worrying about what will happen if he doesnt.
Im excited about the rest of the year, says Kelly, who will turn 40 in November. Im already excited about 10 years from now.
To be sure, he says, The Ryder Cup is my No. 1 goal. What do I have to do? Play well at the PGA.
By not playing at the Buick Open and The International, Kelly avoided two venues where his results have been mixed at best. Meanwhile, he escaped the white hot spotlight of the sizzling Ryder Cup points race. A lot of the pressure of the weight of the last two weeks has been lifted off of me, he says.
Speaking over the phone, Kelly reminded me that I have picked him to win The Players Championship on more than one occasion. He has never captured that event.
So, I said, you dont want me to jinx you by picking you at Medinah?
Go ahead, he said, without a trace of hubris, Pick me. You have my permission.
For the record, my pick for Medinah is Tiger Woods. No surprise there. And to make it clear: Jerry Kelly isnt publicly predicting he will win the PGA next week.
But if he does, he wont be as surprised as most everybody else.
If he doesnt play well, he will be more surprised than anybody.
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