Stricker, Kelly in contention at U.S. Senior Open after marquee grouping on Saturday
By Jacob Heid
STEVENS POINT – It was something all of Wisconsin was hoping for, a pairing of Madison’s Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly on the weekend at the U.S. Senior Open at SentryWorld in Stevens Point.
Among a sea of fans, the two Wisconsin natives fired three-under 68’s in the third round Saturday. Both finished their day with birdies on 18.
“Yeah, to walk up there on No. 1, to have all those people there is pretty special for us,” Stricker said about the experience on the first tee. “Like I said earlier this week, we don’t get this kind of support like this very often. It’s really a special week for Jerry and myself.”
“Yeah, talk about energy; that gave us a lot of energy right there. What a great reception,” Kelly said as he talked about the feeling of walking up 18. “What a great show-up for all the people from Wisconsin and all over. They’ve been nothing but fantastic.”
Kelly is -4 for the championship, two shots behind leader Bernhard Langer.
Stricker currently sits at -3 heading into championship Sunday.
Stricker and Kelly battled each other in the opening five holes.
Both found birdies on holes four and five, which was just the beginning.
“I mean, he gave me the line on that first one, so it was great to top him after that when we finally took the lid off,” Kelly explained as the two went back and forth early. “Then I made the one in front of him on the next hole. He had a nice short one.
Stricker went four-under in the first 10 holes before things got a little dicey.
Kelly went out in an even 35 with two birdies and two bogeys. He gained two shots to start the back nine on holes 10 and 11.
A stray drive out to the left put Stricker in a tight spot on 13, picking up his first bogey of the day after needing to lay up from a penalty area.
He missed the fairway again on 15, dropping his second shot of the back nine.
His playing competitor and friend Kelly played steady with a string of six straight pars before picking up a birdie on the last hole.
Kelly dropped a putt from the back of the green while Stricker matched it with a three of his own to end their magical pairing.
Kelly heads out in the final pairing with Langer at 11:34 a.m. on Sunday in a quest for his first U.S. Senior Open title.
Langer looks to make history with his 46th Champions Tour title if he can hold on to his two-shot lead.
Stricker (-3) tees off right before that 11:24 a.m. with Y.E. Yang, who sits at -1 for the championship.