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MADISON, Wis. – Jerry Kelly had played bogey-free golf through 35 holes of the American Family Insurance Championship.
The Madison native was tied atop the leaderboard at 10-under-par with Miguel Angel Jimenez heading into the final hole at University Ridge Golf Course on Saturday. Then Kelly admitted he took the wrong approach to the 440-yard, par-4 No. 18.
“I need to hit the ball better,” Kelly said. “I need to hit the driver better. I need to hit my shots better.
“It doesn’t change anything. It just shows that I can get caught. I got caught trying to skirt that bunker. I wasn’t smart. I’m not hitting it good enough to split hairs. I should’ve put it out to the right and hit something longer in. That’s the way I’ve been playing. I haven’t been taking chances.”
He three-putted the hole for double-bogey and ended up with a 3-under par 69 in the second round. His 136 total was two shots back of Jimenez, who was steady in the second round with one bogey on No. 14.
“You’re going to be 18 holes anyway, you know?” Jimenez said. “The thing you have to do tomorrow is keep patience, have a good swing rhythm and let everything happen.
“You have to respect all the players that are behind you. They’re all great players, and tomorrow the one who plays better will win the tournament. Or the one who keeps more concentrating, more calm. Don’t think about it. Just do your best.”
Fred Couples heads into Sunday’s final round in second at 9 under. Kelly, who won the last AmFam title in 2019, was in a group with Retief Goosen and Jim Furyk at 8-under.
“I didn’t hit it great again today,” Kelly said. “Just making the most of it, not making any big mistakes and then I made a big mistake.
“That was a bummer to finish on. But I’m the same amount of shots back that I was yesterday (after the first round). I know it’s there, but, boy, I would have liked to be in the last group putting the pressure on. But second-to-last group putting pressure on is OK.”
Madison’s Steve Stricker, the tournament host, carded an even-par 72 after a 70 on Friday.
“I want to play well here so badly, I think, and that’s part of the problem,” Stricker said. “I put some extra pressure on myself to play well. And I had been playing well coming into here and I’m still striking the ball fairly nicely at times.
“A couple wayward shots on the way in when I tried to force things. So that’s disappointing.”
Kelly and Stricker are the big names in Wisconsin golf, along with 71-year-old Andy North, who continues to battle back issues and shot a 74 on Saturday. But other familiar names are competing at University Ridge.
Skip Kendall has played in all five AmFam Championships. Now working as a coach in Orlando, it was a no-brainer for the 56-year-old to fly up despite a recent break from competition. It is his first PGA Tour Champions event of the year.
“Any time they ask me to be here, I will absolutely be here,” Kendall said. “This is home for me. This tournament is a very special tournament. It’s done a lot of great things for the community.”
Kendall had a solid front nine, including four birdies in five holes, but had a tough stretch of three straight bogeys and finished with his second straight 72.
“I’m disappointed I’m even par,” Kendall said. “But at the same time, I’m happy. I really came here to do better than how I’m doing. Hopefully tomorrow I can get it rolling like I did early today.”
Kendall, who also played in the Wisconsin State Open last year, doesn’t know when he will be back in his home state again, but he is making the most of it.
“Had a bunch of nice dinners with some people I haven’t seen in a while,” Kendall said. “Just saying ‘hi’ to everyone. It’s been nice.”
Mario Tiziani is also enjoying mingling with familiar faces. The 50-year-old former University of Wisconsin standout is playing his first PGA-sanctioned event in over a decade, thanks to a sponsor’s exemption.
Tiziani is well-known in these parts. He played for his father at UW and Stricker is his brother-in-law. Stricker’s daughter, Bobbi, acted as Tiziani’s caddie as he shot a 75 in the second round.
Tiziani lives in Minnesota, but is still deeply involved in golf as an agent. His client list includes Stricker, for whom Tiziani often caddies for at pro events.
“I didn’t really know how I was going to feel,” Tiziani said. “I feel at home, honestly, I don’t feel like I’m an outsider.
“It’s good to see a lot of guys that I know and have met being out here over a few years caddying a bit. It’s been awesome. It definitely gets you excited. I’m anxious to work on my game.”
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