Kelly ends 7-year drought

American veteran Jerry Kelly won his first title in seven years on April 26, fighting back after squandering the lead to win the $6.2 million PGA Zurich Classic by one stroke.

Kelly, who led by three strokes when the day began, won in his 200th start since his last victory at the 2002 Western Open, firing a final-round one-under par 71 to finish 72 holes on 14-under par 274. “This has been a long time coming,” Kelly said. “Can’t feel much better.”

Kelly’s caddie, Eric Meller, was the first to congratulate Kelly, telling him that his favourite line about the long drought was now obsolete.

“My caddie came up to me and the first thing he said was, ‘You’ve got to stop saying the last time you won was ‘Oh too long ago’ because it was in 2002. Now you can say, 2009 divine’. So I’ll go with his thoughts on that one.”

South Africa’s Rory Sabbatini, South Korean Charlie Wi and American Charles Howell shared the second place with 275. Sabbatini fired a 67 while Howell and Wi each shot 68s. Americans Steve Marino and David Toms were fifth with 276.

Howell made a furious charge to the lead from four off the pace at the start with birdies on six of the first 11 holes, including back-to-backs starting on the second and fifth holes as well as the ninth and 11th holes. But Howell came home two-over in the last seven holes, bogeys on the 15th and 17th thwarting his title bid.

“I got myself in position,” Howell said. “I wish I could have finished it a little better.”

Kelly birdied the fifth hole, took bogeys at the eighth and 10th to fall behind Howell’s pace, but battled back with birdies at the par-5 11th and par-3 14th.

“Maybe it took the pressure off me. It wasn’t my tournament to lose anymore. It was my tournament to go get,” Kelly said. “That’s the mindset that I took after 10. You know, I really focussed down. I wasn’t as worried about not getting a hot start because I had done better on the back than the front all week. So I wasn’t concerned.”

Wi, Sabbatini and Howell could only watch as Marino, level with them, and Kelly, one stroke ahead, came down the 18th fairway. Marino found a bunker off the tee and took a bogey to spoil his hopes but Kelly was careful to the end.

Kelly, four times a runner-up with 42 top-10 finishes since his triumph seven years earlier, found the fairway, laid up, put his approach 12 feet from the cup and dropped a two-footer for par and his long-awaited victory.