Jerry Kelly bounced back from an inexplicable miss off the tee to stun Colin Montgomerie in the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The Madison native made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship.
Kelly was tied with Montgomerie when he drove it well right into lava rocks on the wide par-4 16th. He hit a provisional but ended up taking an unplayable lie after he found his ball amid the rocks and made bogey.
"It was shocking. ... I stayed really solid within myself all week and I tried to hit the crap out of that one and it cost me right away," Kelly said. "I knew exactly what I did wrong. I took a big old backswing and I couldn't come back from it, so it showed me a lot."
On 18, it was Montgomerie who made a mistake off the tee, finding a fairway bunker. His approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.
It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open at Waialae. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Kelly won in Honolulu in 2002, one of his three PGA Tour victories.
"I talk to the spirit of the islands all the time and it means a lot to me to win here again," he said. "They did it for me in '02 and they've been with me ever since. It's just fantastic, I love it."
Kelly began the day two shots off the lead and pulled even when Montgomerie made double bogey on the par-3 fifth. Kelly moved in front with a 25-footer for birdie on 13, but Montgomerie responded with two straight birdies, setting up the drama on the closing holes.
Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.
Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.
Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.
“Kip said, ‘Let’s finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.’ We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, ‘Let’s just do the same thing. Let’s get this line right and if you get the line right it’s going in.’”
It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back.
Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.
After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.
Rory McIlroy fired a 7-under 65 in the third round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship to sit one shot behind leaders Ross Fisher and Thomas Pieters in United Arab Emirates.
McIlroy is on 16-under 200 overall with the former world No. 1 playing his first event since October.
Top-ranked Dustin Johnson (68) is five shots behind the leaders.