CARY, N.C. – Jerry Kelly knew he needed to make as many birdies as he could Sunday in a sprint to the finish in the SAS Championship. He was so locked into the process that he didn't realize how many he made until he marked them down on his card.
Locked in a tight race, Kelly ran off five straight birdies to close out the front nine and then made an insurance birdie late that carried him to a 7-under 65 and a one-shot victory in the final regular-season event on the PGA Tour Champions.
"When the guys are so close and you're bunched up, it's make the next birdie," Kelly said. "And then somebody else makes a birdie and it's like, 'OK, I have to make another birdie. I have to make another birdie.' It kind of shocked me to see I was three, four shots clear."
Kelly made his lone bogey on the final hole when it only affected the margin. He won by one shot over David McKenzie, who shot 63.
Woody Austin and Doug Barron, who shared the lead going into the final round, each shot 71 and tied for third with David Toms (66). Barron fell back with a tee shot that went out-of-bounds on No. 6 and led to triple bogey. Austin played his final 13 holes in even par.
Kelly, who finished at 16-under 200, won for the third time this year on the PGA Tour Champions and takes plenty of momentum into the postseason. He went over $2 million in earnings for the year and remains No. 2 in the Charles Schwab Cup standings, though he cut into Scott McCarron's once big lead.
Kelly now is $221,430 behind McCarron, and points are double in the three Schwab Cup playoff events that start in two weeks.
"I'm very happy to be healthy, very happy to be playing well at this time," Kelly said.
Rod Pampling of Australia, who turned 50 last month and was playing his second event on the PGA Tour Champions, needed to finish in the top 10 to earn a ''wild card'' into the postseason. He birdied three straight holes and needed one more on the 18th to finish the tournament in the top 10, but his 15-foot putt was inches short.
The top 72 on the money list qualify for the postseason.
Sandy Lyle was holding down the 72nd spot until closing with a 75. Mike Goodes, who started the SAS Championship with a 75, rallied with rounds of 68-70 and tied for 28th, making enough money to finish No. 72 on the money list by $323 over Lyle.