Sony Open notebook: Jerry Kelly represents senior circuit; Tyler Ota closes amateur career
There were only two golfers from the senior circuit taking part in this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii.
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Kelly represents senior circuit by making cut
There were only two golfers from the senior circuit taking part in this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii. They were past champions Vijay Singh (2005) and Jerry Kelly (2002). Both are taking part in next week’s Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, the season-opening event on the PGA Tour Champions, but only one gets to play through to the weekend.
And that would be Kelly, who shot back-to-back 70s for an even-par 140 in blustery conditions that turned the normally docile Waialae Country Club into a tough two-day outing for the 50-and-over set. Kelly was 2 over with three to play, getting clutch birdies at Nos. 7 and 9 on his closing nine to sneak under the ropes for the weekend. The cut of 65 and ties was 1-over 141.
Singh wasn’t nearly as sharp. While the 53-year-old Kelly bought into the idea of mainly playing with golfers his own age from the time he turned 50, Singh, 57, was reluctant to make that commitment, preferring to stay on the PGA Tour as long as he could. His tour status ends in August. After that, he will need some help. In his two days here, Singh shot 71-75 for a two-day total of 6-over 146.
He still has managed four wins on the seniors tour and will be looking for his first Big Island victory next week. Kelly captured that winners-only tournament in 2018.
Ota closes amateur career
Tyler Ota shot a 3-over 73 in his final round as an amateur, closing with a memorable bogey on No. 18 to end his second Sony Open appearance at 7 over.
He hit his second shot toward the right grandstand and his ball didn’t turn up, at least not in time, after an extensive search. He was carted back to the spot in the fairway rough where he’d hit the shot and landed his second attempt, his fourth shot on the hole, in the right rough. He pitched onto the green, then rolled in a nearly 12-foot putt for bogey.
“I always joke about wanting to hit it in the grandstand, but at least find it though,” Ota said. “We found it, but unfortunately a little too late. Probably one of the better bogeys I’ve made in a while.”
Ota, the five-time reigning Hawaii State Golf Association Player of the Year, plans to turn pro after the tournament and enter a couple of Monday qualifiers and perhaps travel to Japan later in the year. “The goal is to get back out here,” he said. “That’s everyone’s goal.”
“Learned a lot,” Ota said of his two rounds. “I was telling everybody (Thursday’s) round was one of the first eye-openers where the score didn’t reflect it, but it was closer to being in contention than I actually was. A couple dropped putts here and there, that’s why these guys are so good. They make those putts that I missed. They turn a 74 round into a 69 possibly. Yesterday’s round was the first time that I kind of realized that I could do something like that because it was closer than the score indicated.”
Inside the numbers
With the wind dying down and the rain not coming sideways as often as it did Thursday, the scoring average dropped from 71.993 on Thursday to 70.259 on Friday. The early scoring average on Thursday was 72.60, with the afternoon pairings shooting 71.39. The morning round was easier on Friday at 69.32. The afternoon produced a 71.18.
First-round leader Collin Morikawa managed the only bogey-free round on Thursday. There were six on Friday, including one from Charles Howell III, who went from 3 over on Thursday to even for the tournament on Friday to make the cut. He had a streak of 23 consecutive rounds in the 60s here before shooting 73 the first day. He began what he hopes is a new streak with a 67 on Friday.