Kelly finding some gain after the pain

Healthy again, he opens with a 66

Jerry Kelly, catching a ride to the eighth tee, says he’s headed in the right direction after solving back and inconsistency issues. Jerry Kelly, catching a ride to the eighth tee, says he’s headed in the right direction after solving back and inconsistency issues. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / September 3, 2011

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

NORTON - If it wasn’t illness for Jerry Kelly, it was injury. If it wasn’t injury, it was inconsistency.

He’s had them all over the past three years.

Take 2008. He started with a third-place finish at the Sony Open in Honolulu, but then missed the cut in eight of 12 events, falling into a deep slump before shaking it off with a second-place finish at the Memorial. He followed that up by missing the cut at the US Open.

There were those two weeks in 2009 when he had to withdraw from the Heritage Open because of illness, then won the Zurich Classic by a stroke over Rory Sabbatini, Charlie Wi, and Charles Howell.

The worst, though, came last season, when a back injury forced Kelly to pull out of the Sony and then the Bob Hope in January.

“My last three, four years - other than the win in ’09 - it’s really been quite a struggle,’’ Kelly said. “Health at times, and then when I’m healthy, brain. You never know.’’

It’s been a mixed bag this season. He had top 10s at the Sony, Honda, and Wyndham Championship. But in March, that same troublesome back forced him to withdraw after the second round of the Puerto Rico Open.

However, he got off to a quick start yesterday at the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston, shooting a 5-under-par 66 that left him a stroke behind leader Troy Matteson.

“This year started out with a couple of top 10s and I thought, ‘OK, here we go, we’re back again,’ ’’ Kelly said. “Then all of a sudden [I went] off the edge a little bit. But I’ve come back strong since.’’

Ever since last month’s PGA Championship, when Kelly opened with a 5-under 65 (though he finished tied for 26th at 1 over), he’s felt strong. Yesterday’s was his ninth straight round in the 60s dating to the final round of the PGA.

It’s been a matter of changing his mentality, according to Kelly. But he’s had to get that to agree with his swing.

“I’ve always gone at the ball 100 to 110 percent,’’ he said. “I really wasn’t able to do much else with the move that I have had. Now, on the mental side, I’ve tried to calm myself down. Those two things don’t mix very well.’’

Kelly said he talked to his coach and his doctor about working on mobility, smoothing out his swing.

“So all of a sudden my swing and what I was trying to do with my mental side, they were matching up,’’ he said. “I was able to stay in that mode all the way through a round, which was difficult for me in the past. I’d go after it, I’d try to get something back or I’d try to go further. I’d always be fighting it. I don’t think I had the swing or the body to smooth it out correctly like I am now.’’

Starting on the 10th hole yesterday, Kelly torched the back nine in 4-under 31. He made four birdies overall, including at No. 14, a 495-yard par 4 that ranked fifth-toughest on the day (19 birdies).

“That was my best driver of the day,’’ Kelly said. “Then I hit a 5-iron to about 3 feet.’’

Kelly eagled the 18th hole, a 528-yard par 5, initially just trying to get the ball over the hazard and catch a decent lie, then getting some good fortune.

“I knew it was going to be OK from over there, and I chipped it down the hill,’’ he said. “Might have been going off the green just an inch or so, but the pin was only 8 feet. That was a good break, obviously.’’

One of the highlights of Kelly’s 2009 season was the Deutsche Bank Championship. He finished tied for 11th at 12-under 272. But one of his lowlights from 2010 was missing the Deutsche Bank.

“That’s one of the reasons I fought to get here, because I certainly didn’t like missing it last year,’’ he said. “I don’t like missing anything.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at