KAILUA-KONA >> Jerry Kelly bounced back from an inexplicable miss off the tee to stun Colin Montgomerie in the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory today in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai.
Kelly was tied with Montgomerie when he drove it well right into lava rocks on the wide par-4 16th. He hit a provisional but ended up taking an unplayable lie after he found his ball amid the rocks and made bogey.
“It was shocking. … I stayed really solid within myself all week and I tried to hit the crap out of that one and it cost me right away,” Kelly said. “I knew exactly what I did wrong. I took a big old backswing and I couldn’t come back from it, so it showed me a lot.”
On 18, it was Montgomerie who made a mistake off the tee, finding a fairway bunker. His approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.
It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th on Sunday at the PGA Tour’s Sony Open at Waialae Country Club. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Kelly won in Honolulu in 2002, one of his three PGA Tour victories.
“I talk to the spirit of the islands all the time and it means a lot to me to win here again,” he said. “They did it for me in ‘02 and they’ve been with me ever since. It’s just fantastic, I love it.”
Kelly began the day two shots off the lead and pulled even when Montgomerie made double bogey on the par-3 fifth. Kelly moved in front with a 25-footer for birdie on 13, but Montgomerie responded with two straight birdies, setting up the drama on the closing holes.
Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.