Second win even better than first for Kelly

Sunday, July 7th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LEMONT, Ill. (AP) _ Jerry Kelly was walking up the 18th fairway in triumph when he saw the Western Open gallery stand and begin applauding him.

Chills ran through his body. When he looked over at his caddie, he saw him shiver, too. Except for winning a major, it couldn't get any better for a guy from nearby Madison, Wis.

Kelly was sizzling Sunday, shooting a 7-under 65 to win the Western Open by two strokes. Anytime someone mounted a challenge, he beat them back with a birdie, eight in all.

``All of my friends and family are here. It doesn't get any better than that,'' said Kelly, who gave out 50 tickets this week. ``These are people I've gotten tickets for to these tournaments the last seven years. They were just coming out to support me, watch me play. They didn't really care if I won.

``For me to win it for them, to have them have that much fun, I really enjoyed being able to do that.''

Kelly finished at 19-under 269, two strokes off the Western Open record. Davis Love III was runner-up for a second year, running into trouble over his last three holes. He shot a 6-under 66, but made bogey on the 17th to cost himself any chance he had of winning.

After Kelly tapped in for par and the win, he pumped his fist twice and hugged his caddie. His wife, Carol, was waiting for him just off the green, and Kelly picked her up in a bearhug and swung her around.

After going his first six years on tour without a victory, he's now won twice this year. With a victory at the Sony Open in January, he joins Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Len Mattiace as the only multiple winners this season.

``This was something I could really savor,'' Kelly said. ``It was unbelievable.''

He earned $720,000 with the victory, giving him a career-high $2.39 million this year.

Love's day was spoiled by some fans, who heckled him on the 16th and 17th holes. He gave a long glare to one after blasting out of the rough on the 17th.

But Love refused to blame the fans for his second-place finish.

``It didn't affect my play,'' he said. ``It's just sad when a guy gets close to the lead and is on the 16th tee and can't take his backswing because of a fan yelling. ... The state of the culture these days, people don't have respect for other people and don't have respect for what they do.''

Brandt Jobe was third at 273, and second-round leader John Cook was fourth at 274. Robert Allenby, who began the day with a two-stroke lead, faded badly and finished seven shots behind Kelly.

Kelly hoped his win in Hawaii would be the breakthrough he's been looking for, and it was at first. He had four other top-10 finishes, including a tie for seventh at the Buick Classic.

But he missed the cut at the U.S. Open and then the next week at the Greater Hartford Open. When he got home, he worked with his brother-in-law Jim Schuman, a golf pro in Madison.

The lesson worked. Starting the day three strokes off the lead, he made up ground quickly with birdies on three of his first five holes.

But Love, one stroke behind, was always right on his heels. With a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-3 14th, Love dropped to 16-under.

``I started off not making any birdies, and I told myself to be patient and just hang in there,'' Love said. ``I was playing well and I knew I could make a bunch of birdies at any time if I was patient.''

Just like last year, though, his downfall came on the last three holes. He flew the green on the par-4 16th with his second shot, landing in deep rough behind the hole _ almost the exact same spot he was in last year.

He recovered, chipping on and making an 8-footer to save par.

He wasn't as fortunate on the 17th, however. He pulled his drive left, landing in deep rough behind three trees. He blasted out safely, his ball hitting the green and rolling across it and onto the fringe.

But after his shot, he turned and started toward the gallery, glaring briefly before turning back to the fairway.

``I couldn't tell what he said. He was just screaming,'' Love said. ``They were screaming right before you hit it, right after you hit it.''

Love chipped within 5 feet of the pin, but his par putt lipped out. Kelly, meanwhile, had made a huge 3-footer on 13 to save par, then tapped in for his eighth birdie at 15.

``When he gets going, he's tough to beat,'' Love said. ``When he gets on a roll, when he gets up on the leaderboard, he fights pretty hard.''