Kelly Will Have Hometown Support at PGA

By Associated PressAugust 10, 2004, 4:00 pm
04 PGA ChampionshipKOHLER, Wis. -- This is the ultimate major week for Wisconsin native Jerry Kelly.
 
Kelly, who still lives in Madison, has earned more than $1.5 million this year, hasn't missed a cut in 19 tournaments and has a great shot at making his first Ryder Cup team.
 
But to clinch a tee time with the American team at Oakland Hills next month, Kelly will have to play well at the PGA Championship - the last major of the season - on one of the toughest courses on the planet.
 
The links style, moonscape of Whistling Strait along the shores of Lake Michigan is the longest in major championship history at 7,514 yards, a length rivaled only by the more than 1,000 bunkers that blanket the layout.
 
It's not a course that favors Kelly's game, built more on his competitive spirit and consistency than distance off the tee. But he's sure to have plenty of support from the locals who will turn out to watch the first major championship being played in Wisconsin in 71 years.
 
'I kind of melt into my own misery sometimes, and they don't let me do that here,' Kelly said.
 
Kelly doesn't hide his desire to play in the Ryder Cup.
 
'I want to play great here, make my way into the Ryder Cup,' he said.
 
So much so that he couldn't watch Jay Haas' final putt last week at The International. That putt lifted Haas into fifth place and into the top 10 in the Ryder Cup points standings, just ahead of Kelly.
 
The top 10 are automatically in and Kelly needs at least a top 10 finish this week to clinch a spot.
 
'Jay is the greatest guy in the world, there's no way I'd sit there thinking I want him to miss it,' Kelly said. 'We don't want to get the spots by someone else's failures. That's not part of the game.'
 
So that left it all up to this week.
 
'If I play well, everything will take care of itself,' Kelly said. 'So that's where my mind-set is, have fun with the people out here, let my game come.'
 
Kelly's game has come along nicely.
 
He's one of the PGA's most consistent players with earnings of more than $6 million since 2001. He's had two PGA wins - both in 2002 - at the Sony Open and Western Open.
 
But Kelly hasn't contended in the majors. He finished in a tie for 31st at The Masters, tied for 40th at the U.S. Open and tied for 47th at the British Open. In seven previous PGA Championships, his best finish was a tie for 26th.
 
He's confident that all could change overnight, as it did for fellow American Todd Hamilton at this year's British Open.
 
'It's strange ... thinking I could be in line to win one of these events when I haven't even competed,' he said. 'But I know I've put my time in and I know the first time that I get there (in contention), I could break through. It's not going to be a fluke.'
 
Kelly also can borrow from a little recent PGA history in his quest to prove the bubble sitter in the Ryder Cup chase can rise to the top. David Toms was in a similar position when he won this major in 2001.
 
Kelly, who has played with Woods in the final group on Sunday, said he tends to play better with a large gallery. 'It's much easier to drown out a crowd than it is to drown out an individual.'
 
Woods, who always plays before a full house, understands the kind of challenge - Ryder Cup spot or not - Kelly will face this week.
 
'It's one of those things where you have to put it all aside and go play,' he said. 'There's a lot of pressure playing in a major championship and that's enough.'
 
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