Jerry Kelly was cruising, a wire-to-wire victory in the U.S. Senior Open having creeped into the realm of possibility, when he magnanimously reopened the outcome to a host of players.
Kelly squandered a three-stroke lead early on the back nine on the East Course at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., and will go into Sunday’s final round with a one-stroke lead over David Toms.
On the 12th green, Kelly missed a two-foot par putt, then a three-foot bogey putt and made a double-bogey five. That and a bogey two holes earlier, dropped him into a tie with his University of Hartford teammate, Tim Petrovic.
“I definitely worked for it today,” Kelly said of his one-over par 71. “I still felt like I hit the ball just good enough to shoot a good score, but two three-putts, one of them from about two-and-a-half feet, that one sticks in your craw a little bit.
Kelly, who at one time was seven-under par, completed 54 holes in four-under 206. Petrovic bogeyed the 15th, 17th and 18th holes, also shot a 71 and trails by two, as does Kirk Triplett following a round of two-under 68.
“I didn’t really make any putts to speak of,” Petrovic said. “I took my medicine coming in. I put myself in a bad spot on 17 and 18. Sometimes, especially in majors, you have to take your medicine and live to fight another day.”
Toms, a former PGA Championship winner, made the strongest move up the leader board by virtue of his four-under par 66.
“I kept the ball in play and obviously my irons are pretty good,” Toms said. “I had a lot of opportunities today. I misjudged a couple of clubs and was able to get it up and down. Hit a couple of chips that I thought really had a chance. Obviously it’s the U.S. Open. You can get in a lot of bad spots out there. I avoided those, and hopefully I can do the same tomorrow.”
Toms, 51, has yet to win in 34 previous PGA Tour Champions starts.
On Thursday, Kelly said, “I’m a fairly jumpy putter, there’s no doubt about it. I’m a very good putter, but I can look kind of foolish at times, too.” The 12th hole was one of those moments.
“I knew what I did,” he said. “Sometimes I pick the putter up and that’s what I did on all of those."