For Kelly, a proud Wisconsinite, the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee is the one tournament, aside from one of the four majors, which he most wants to win on tour. He refers to it as my major.
Kelly, who was born in Madison and still lives there, could use a little enjoyment in the work place.
This will mark his 20th event of the season, and thus far he has only one top-10 finish ' and that came in Januarys Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. Hes made over $2 million in each of the last three seasons, but has deposited less than $700,000 this year.
He can attribute some of that to dabbling with different equipment earlier in the season. Hes also been working primarily with brother-in-law Jim Schuman as his instructor. Schuman and Rick Smith used to share those duties, with Smith leading the way. But with Phil Mickelson occupying a large part of Smiths time, Kelly decided to flip-flop to roles of the two.
And theres also the matter of physical ailments ' Kelly always seems to be bothered by something resulting from his days as a hockey player.
Kelly missed the cut in last weeks Open Championship, meaning he should be a little more rested for this years home state event.
Hes one of a handful of players scheduled to make the journey from the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland to Brown Deer Park in Milwaukee.
One of those players is our favorite for the week.
Five for the Title:
Perry tied for 11th at the Open. Hes having a year reminiscent to that of 2003, in which he won three times, including this event. Perry has already won the Bay Hill Invitational and the Bank of America Colonial (which he also won in '03). The 44-year-old has the best record of anyone at Brown Deer Park Golf Course (par 70, 6,759 yards) over the last five years. He tied for third in 2000; tied for fifth in 2001; was fourth in 2002; won in 2003; and tied for seventh a year ago.
Franco doesnt have Perrys consistency in this event, but he does have more victories. This will be his seventh start in the event formerly known as the Greater Milwaukee Open. He has four career victories on the PGA Tour. Two have come in New Orleans and the other two have come here. Franco captured this tournament in 1999 and again last year, when he defeated Fred Funk and Brett Quigley by two strokes. Franco has never missed the cut in Milwaukee, but those are his only two top-20s in six previous starts.
Kelly has had mixed results in his home tournament. In 13 career starts, he has three top-10s and four missed cuts. His best results came in a runner-up finish in 1996 and a third-place finish in 1999. Last year, he was one off the first-round lead after opening in 4-under 66. But while Franco took control of the event with a Friday 63, Kelly shot 2-over 72. Black numbers are a killer in terms of winning this event. Not since Jim Thorpe in 1985 has a player shot an over-par round and gone on to win.
There has never been a three-time winner of this event, but there have been seven two-time champs. Sluman is among that group. He prevailed in 1998 and again in 2002. That 02 triumph is his most recent on tour. This will mark Slumans 18th appearance in Milwaukee. He, like Kelly, opened in 66 a year ago, but then posted a 72. He eventually tied for 22nd.
Herron has never won this event ' he hasnt won anywhere since the 1999 Bay Hill Invitational, but he has a good track record at Brown Deer. Herron tied for second in 2002 and tied for third in 2003. He tied for 10th in his last Stateside tournament at the Cialis Western Open and tied for 41st at the Open Championship.
Playing Out the Front Nine
Four more players to keep an eye on
*Skip Kendall, who was born in Milwaukee and grew up playing Brown Deer. Kendall knows this layout better than anyone. He has three top-10s in 14 career starts.
*Brad Faxon, who flew to Scotland on his own dime to qualify for the Open Championship. He performed admirably at St. Andrews, getting within four of the 54-hole lead, before a final-round 76 dropped him into a tie for 23rd. He tied for third in his last U.S. start at the Barclays Classic. His appearance in this event a year ago, in which he tied for 24th, was his first since 1995.
*Scott Verplank, who also performed well at St. Andrews. Verplank tied Faxon for 23rd at St. Andrews. He tied for 11th here a year ago. It was his first Milwaukee start since 1991.
*Sean OHair, who is making his first U.S. Bank start. OHair is playing quite well of late. The 23-year-old tour rookie captured the John Deere Classic two weeks ago. But he may be a bit exhausted after taking an unexpected and chaotic trip to St. Andrews, where he tied for 15th.