Defending champion Jerry Kelly rides high عالي

Akron, Ohio – Jerry Kelly returns to Firestone Country Club this week as a top-tier rider, now that he no longer runs the head of his precarious driver’s club.

On June 13, Kelly defended his title at the US Family Insurance Championship in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. He claimed his first PGA Tour Champions win since winning his first major tournament, the Bridgestone Senior Tournament, at Akron last August.

“It was really needed for my psyche,” Kelly said of his one-shot victory over Fred Cables and Miguel Angel Jimenez at University Ridge Golf Club. “That’s what this major can do for you in terms of confidence. It was great for me to win the players, but last week it was unbelievable and I wasn’t on the ground yet.”

Kelly will need to get back down to earth if he hopes to win for the second year in a row the $3 million Bridgestone Senior Players Championship that opened Thursday at the iconic Firestone South Course. Bernhard Langer The last man to win back-to-back senior home titles was Bernard Langer from 2014 to 2016. Firestone’s last consecutive win was Tiger Woods from 2005-07 at the Bridgestone World Championships Invitational.

“When we get to a world-class golf course – there are no two ways of that, it’s totally world-class, it’s high quality – and we all know that and we all want to win courses like this because it proves the game after I win Firestone Country,” Kelly said on Wednesday. Club…I know I can win almost anywhere now because it’s a great golf course.”

He got a boost from the American family with victory in more than one area. This was followed by what he called his worst run of 2021, a 75th on the final day of the Main Charity Classic in Des Moines, Iowa, where he finished in a draw for 23rd.

Kelly said he broke his driver about six weeks ago and has been struggling ever since. Going to the American family, in his previous four championships dating back to May 9, he had tied 19th, tied 14th, tied 12th, and tied 52nd in driving accuracy, usually his strong suit .

He remained third in the driving accuracy rankings on the 2020-21 lapped Tour Champions Tour, but Des Moines only hit 42.86 percent of lanes, well below his season average of 79.20 percent.

Kelly has an endorsement deal with Srixon but has been playing with the PING driver, and said his game wasn’t the same after it was broken.

“The internal threads have been stripped,” he said. “I was shot with one bullet and my head looked [bent] And I’m like, “That’s not good.” Basically, I recycled it down; I can hold on to the handle and twist the head.”

Kelly said he thought it was a problem with the ferrule, the cap between the shaft and the paddle head, so he replaced that. He tried a different driver, but couldn’t find the right shaft racket head combination, so he went back to the broken driver.

“I played with it for a few weeks that way,” he said. “It was stable for hard collisions, but not stable for runs. I think it moved enough on sneaky guys that I didn’t take the shots I’m used to seeing.

“Although it was probably the ferrule, I’m running this thing to show everyone what was going on, I guess I also stripped my head.”

He was finally dispatched with a new header and pole ahead of the Wisconsin Championship, and said the driver “worked perfectly”.

It’s the kind of problem all professionals face, Kelly said. He joked that what he did wasn’t as bad as what happened to Rod Bambling in Des Moines. Bumbling crouched under the spectator’s rope and dropped the rope through his bag in the back of his carriage. When the wagon pulled away, two of his batons fell and fell apart.

“It’s a good comedy if you haven’t watched it,” Kelly said.

Access to the lanes with his rebuilt driver will be a key factor for Kelly at Firestone, as he and runner-up Scott Burrell were the only ones on the field to finish below par in 2020.

“Not only can you hit the drives straight, you actually have to shape them in the fairways,” Kelly said. “The way they are downhill, even when the fairway is wide, you probably only have half to a quarter of that right to actually hit it. If I’m confident with my driver, I really enjoy the way I hit my irons, the way I lay and my short game So this course is for the driver.

“If he plays firmly and fast. Even though you hit the ball far, you need more control of your ball from the tee. I really like it about the golf course because that is my strength.”

Kelly explained why his victory in Madison was so important, especially after he was knocked out in the 75th round in Des Moines.

“I knew I didn’t win this year,” he said. “It was great to beat the guys in the butt on Sunday. I knew I was close. But after doing a double round on Saturday to finish my round and then start my round with a ghost the next day, to come back from those on two separate days, you had the same feeling both times.” .

“I had to dig deep. That was probably what I’m most proud of, the comeback that I put out from these two locations. I was in the lead and stumbled. And when you come back from something like that, it makes you a lot more proud of making everything go smoothly, which is What obviously never happens.”

Kelly, 54, had his mother, Lee, on the show. She said in an interview with the Champions Tour staff that she keeps his scorecard since he was five and makes records with scraps of his accomplishments.

But its most unusual feature is burial of feathers in the track in which he plays for luck.

“If you bury a feather, you grow a bird,” Kelly explained in the video.

“She’s been doing it forever,” he said on Wednesday. “I played on the regular golf course yesterday, and I had a charity walk, and I walk down the fairway and say, ‘Wow, there’s an eagle feather, she really likes it. “And the next hole went smoothly. It’s crazy, it really is.”

The Eagles can be a rarity at Firestone, but Kelly got a one-hole 12th-third in the final round last year. Heading into 2020, Kelly played in a four-man squad for the NEC-Bridgestone Invitationals from 2003-09. His best achievement of the period was a tie for 11th place in 2009, when his total points score of 277 was nine behind winner Woods by nine shots. Last year, Kelly also scored 277 and beat Burrell by two strokes.

While he was looking forward to competing again in Akron, where he likes to relax at waterside restaurants at Portage Lakes, Kelly set another goal besides winning.

“I’m going to hit the fairway on the eighth hole this year,” he said, shaking his head. “Me, I know I am. Every time I step on that shirt, I say, ‘This is the day I finally hit you, Fairway.'”

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