Kelly relies on late birdies in Senior Players victory

Kelly relies on late birdies in Senior Players victory

AKRON, Ohio — Jerry Kelly won the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship for the second time in three years Sunday, breaking away with two late birdies to beat defending champion Steve Stricker by two strokes.

Kelly closed with a 2-under 68, taking the outright lead with a 15-foot birdie putt from the fringe on the par-5 16th and running in a 10-footer on the par-4 17th. He finished at 11-under 269 on Firestone’s South Course.

“The first major is awesome, but the second one, even more validation,” Kelly said. “I’m really excited to go back to Sawgrass next March. That was a big piece of the desire in winning this tournament. That’s one of those great things that we have with our majors that we can get to go play at the high point of golf. I’m really excited about that.”

The 55-year-old Kelly won with wife Carol looking on. Last year, she had surgery to remove her right kidney after doctors found a cancerous mass.

“I mean, just the fact that she’s here this week,” Kelly said. “It may not be our normal restaurant-laden place or the hotel that is our favorite on tour, but the golf course is that special and she’s like, ‘You know what, I want to be there for you, I love that golf course, it’s really cool just to be out there.'”

Kelly also won at Firestone in August 2020 and finished second last year. The Madison, Wisconsin, player has 10 PGA Tour Champions victories, also winning the Principal Charity Classic last month in Iowa, after winning three times on the PGA Tour.

“He made the putts when he had to coming down, and vice versa, I didn’t,” Stricker said. “That’s the difference.”

The 55-year-old Stricker, also from Madison, matched Kelly with a closing 68.

“Not really what I had in mind, really,” Stricker said. “I was looking to come out on top of all this.”

Sticker missed a chance for his second major victory of the season after taking the Regions Tradition in May in Alabama.

“He played great and he made the putts when he had to,” Stricker said about Kelly. “He made a nice putt at 13 for birdie and then I basically showed him the line at 16 and he made another great one at 17.”

Steve Alker bogeyed the par-4 18th to drop into a tie for third with Ernie Els at 8 under. A three-time winner this season and the Charles Schwab Cup points leader, Alker shot a 69.

“I just didn’t have it today,” Alker said. “I just made too many bogeys over the weekend. That was the difference.”

Els closed with a 68.

Stephen Ames (65) was 6 under with Ken Duke (66), Woody Austin (68) and Alex Cejka (73).

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