KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii — Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Madison's Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
Kelly, 51, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
"Last week helped a lot just to prepare because I took my first two months off since probably 1989 when I turned pro, so I only practiced for one week. I didn't even play 18 holes a day," Kelly said. "So I played really well last week. If I would have putted like I did today, I would have won easy. So I took that into this week. Switched back to my old putter and had a good day on the greens."
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions.
"Just got to keep going and just hope that wind doesn't really blow these next few days. But I know it will probably blow one day," Sauers said. "You've just got to stay cool and calm and just try to do the best you can, try to keep that ball low and do whatever you can."
Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers. In years past, Kelly has used Hualalai to prepare for the Sony Open at Waialae. This year, it was the opposite.
"Been coming here for years and it still didn't help me get in the tournament last year," Kelly said. "I couldn't, so I had to fight my way in here and it felt good to do that. I've played here a lot."
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.