An Interview With: Jerry Kelly

JULIUS MASON: Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to welcome Jerry Kelly to the interview room, Jerry playing in his eighth PGA Championship.

Welcome to Wisconsin.

JERRY KELLY: I live here.


JERRY KELLY: I'm used to this.

JULIUS MASON: Opening thoughts and we'll go to Q&A.

JERRY KELLY: Opening thoughts for me, well, this is a golf course. This is a big golf course, and with the rain that we had, it's even a little softer and playing a little longer. So with that much length, then if we get some good, solid wind and maybe some cold weather, it should be the tournament that they are expecting. It really could play not easy, but it could play a little easier than a lot of people think if there's no wind. So hopefully, we get the wind and it poses the challenge that Whistling Straits can.

Q. Obviously you've talked about this for the last month or so, but now you're here, you're playing in your home state at a course you know, and you're playing for the Ryder Cup. What's going through your mind and how are you handling it?

JERRY KELLY: Right now the finality of it is here, which is great. You know, I kind of run the gamut. I went to the GMO and got in contention and started thinking about winning the golf tournament and tried to pull off a crazy shot and didn't really think about Ryder Cup points coming down the stretch as much as I should have. And then all of a sudden, I decided to go to Michigan, and since Ryder Cup was the only reason that I went to Michigan, that's all I thought about and finished in the Top-10.

You know, it doesn't pay to pay attention to it, it doesn't pay not to, you never know. But all I try to do in Wisconsin is play for the people, and that's what I did at the GMO. I tend not to focus on anything except for having fun with these people, which I tend not to have enough fun everywhere else. But these people are so supportive of me that I just really enjoy playing for them. And for it to be a major, it really has not felt that much different. I feel like the burden is on them to lift me up again, which is kind of nice.

You know, I hope I have a great crowd. If I play well, everything will take care of itself, this tournament, Ryder Cup, all of the above. So that's where my mindset is, have fun with the people out here, let my game come out, everything will take care of itself.

Q. Being from the State of Wisconsin, how much have the other golfers picked your brain about this golf course?

JERRY KELLY: Not that much. Fred Funk, Kenny Perry wanted to play with me yesterday; we played.

These guys have a pretty good idea of once they play the place once, they have an idea of the lines to choose. The difference, I've played it in four or five different winds, and I mean, some of those par 4s go from driver, 7-iron to driver, 1-iron that you can't reach. Just me having seen the different winds is really the key to this golf course.

I just can't stress to them enough, okay, you can't hit it there if the wind blows this way, you can't hit it there. The lines change dramatically and that's something that really only comes from the experience of playing it. I just hope it switches every day (laughing).

Q. A year ago at Chicago, your concern was about your approach to majors. You said you worried about your mental approach and your focus, you said you either have to care more or care less. Can you talk about how you've handled that since then and your approach for this week?

JERRY KELLY: Yeah, I think I need to do both, really, care more in the correct spots and care less in the correct spots.

Caring more didn't work and caring less didn't work. I have to use a little bit of both. I have to care more that my mental side is in it on all of my decisions and then I have to care less once I make that decision.

It's easy to say but it's tough to do. It's also living with the decisions. I have a hard time living with my decision on 15 at GMO after I made it, but after you make that decision, you'd better be prepared to accept whatever happens. That's the part of caring less; after you make the decision, you commit and you let it go. That's always been one for me but it's something I've definitely gotten better at over the years and that's where my focus is going to be this week.

Q. There's a lot of talk about the length of the course, and I'm wondering, because of the runout in the fairway, if it plays as long as advertised, or again, is that wholly dependent on the type of wind you get?

JERRY KELLY: It's more dependent on the wind. The rain didn't completely soften it up, but still, it's a lot softer than this place should be playing, and the length is there. If we get, you know, 15 to 20, it's definitely there on plenty of holes. But, you know, the course does a figure 8 so you are going to get the downwind as well as the into the wind. It should even itself out.

Q. On a scale of 1 to 10, rate your game right now. How are things going for you?

JERRY KELLY: I'd say I could be a solid 8 if I keep my brain in it.

I'm probably swinging the club as good as I've ever swung it, just got a little short game tip from Rick Smith earlier in the week that has really clicked my short game a little bit more. My putting since Michigan has been very good. Driving is always consistent in the fairway.

So the physical side of my game, I think is coming together for the first time this year. You know, I feel pretty strongly about my mental side right now. I think I'm in the right place, in Wisconsin, and I just want to really have fun out there. It may not look like it because I'm going to be concentrating pretty hard, but as long as I let go of some of the choices I've made, I'm going to enjoy myself.

Q. Can you talk about which courses in Wisconsin you grew up playing and who from the state had an influence in the development of your game?

JERRY KELLY: The second one is easy, Andy North. Everybody wanted to be Andy North. Two U.S. Opens, I mean, he won the first one when I was really wanting to come out and be a pro. And he won the second one when I knew I was headed that direction.

So he had a big influence on shaping me to definitely go and want to be a pro. You know, the golf courses in Wisconsin, most of them are fairly short, old style, I'd say Donald Ross style, just very solid driving courses, usually small, undulating greens. Maple Bluff Country Club in Madison is where I grew up. I played every course in Madison multiple times.

They've got a great junior program in the city and in the state, and I really played a ton of golf courses, too many to mention. Blackwolf Run, and there's so many fun courses, Oneida up here in Green Bay, Pine Hills. I love the golf courses in Wisconsin. I think if you can't grow grass up here, you can't grow grass. They are always in great shape and fun to play.

Q. Could you describe the routine you went through in terms of practice rounds last week and how much time you spent on the property and what exactly you were working for in preparation for this championship?

JERRY KELLY: I was hoping to space it out and get some wind changes, because that's exactly what I did. I came up Wednesday and that was after coming up about three weeks ago. I took a local caddie each time and he helped me quite a bit with the lines and the distances and how things normally play and where things bounce where you don't want to be, which is actually pretty apparent out there.

Then I got here on Sunday morning and I've just been doing my normal practice routine from Sunday morning, which is four nine?hole rounds with a lot of practice on each side.

I'm just glad I got the different wind changes. I think that makes a big difference in how I approach this golf course. There's so many ways to play it, you just can't be pigeon?holed into hit it here, hit it there. You've got to be extremely flexible on this golf course.

Q. As a guy who has seen this course more than most out here, do you have a number in mind if the weather doesn't get too nasty?

JERRY KELLY: It's all weather. This place, if it's calm, I think 15?under could win.

I think if it blows, even par could do pretty darned well.

So, a big range depending on the weather. I know that it's like that every week; wind is the toughest element that we play in. But if the wind blows out here, there's nothing stopping it, obviously. It's going to blow and it's going to be really tough. If we happen to get a crosswind instead of the major north/south variation, getting it in these fairways is going to be really hard.

Q. Now that a lot of your counterparts are experiencing Wisconsin golf for the first time and the hospitality and just the love for the game of golf here in Wisconsin, granted there is always that scheduling conflict, but what, if any, kind of politicking or arm?twisting can you do to talk to them to say, you know, we have a regular stop on the PGA in Milwaukee, why don't you come and play with us here in Milwaukee?

JERRY KELLY: Brown Deer has really matured. They have learned how to set Brown Deer up to be a PGA TOUR golf course.

The last two years, I think under double digits has been leading after three days. Guys will see that, and they will come just because of that golf course and the way it's treating people. I mean, it's in perfect shape. All it is is high rough, and the scores are not getting out of control anymore. That's the type of tournament that guys want to come play.

If I strike it well, I've got a very good chance to win. If I strike it poorly, I'm in trouble. There are a lot of places where guys can go all over the place and get away with it. Well, you can't do that at Brown Deer. So I think the field is going to start getting stronger. Right after the British I think is much better than right before; guys really want to get over there and play beforehand, and when you're at the British, it's not that big of a deal to come back west. It's much tougher to go east.

I think the field is going to start getting better at the U.S. Bank, which I have been politicking for and I will keep politicking for. I'm going to ask as many guys as I can. I'm not afraid to ask Tiger to come back to Milwaukee, his first pro tournament.

I think it's going to get good.

Q. I know you've been asked throughout the summer what it would mean to win a major championship. It would be your first here in the home state of Wisconsin. How much over the last couple of weeks have you found yourself thinking about that? Have those thoughts entered your head about what it would mean, and what has gone through your mind?

JERRY KELLY: Really I have not thought about winning that much. That's something I normally do going into majors. It's strange, I always say, thinking that I could be in line to win one of these events when I haven't even competed in these events. And competed in the true sense of the word, for the win.

But I know I've put my time in, and I know the first time that I get there, I could break through. It's not going to be a fluke. But I haven't really thought about winning this week. I really have just enjoyed coming and playing in Wisconsin, with the Wisconsin people, for the Wisconsin people. I can't explain it to you because I know a lot of the other guys from Wisconsin put some pressure on themselves to perform in front of these people. I get a chance to have fun with them, where, you know, in some of the other tournaments, I kind of melt into my own misery sometimes, and they don't let me do that here.

I have a ton of fun playing for them and with them.

Q. Some of the other players have mentioned how visually difficult this course is. Could you comment on that and how it's changed from the first time you played it last week to now that you've been out there a few more times, have you been able to get the blinders on and be able to really focus in on how to attack it?

JERRY KELLY: Well, the first time I played it, they still had the fescue right up to the fairway. They were just starting to cut it down. That was very visually intimidating.

Since I came down last week, a lot of it had been cut down near the fairway, so it's actually softened up quite a bit from what I've seen. I think that plays a big part of me being able to just pick my line and go. I used have to really -- you used to have to steer away from one bit of trouble towards another bit of trouble, and now there's definitely a softer side to each of these fairways where you can just go ahead and let it rip. If you're confident in your shot, you're not going to miss it by too much and you know where to miss it, it's really okay.

The rough is going to be difficult if it's wet. This fescue rough is very swirly; you don't have it into the grain, sidegrain, downgrain, it kind of goes in a circle. The lines off the tees are really a little bit better than what I saw when I first came here.

Like I said, if there's crosswind, those lines are extremely difficult to hit. There's a lot of doglegs, and in crosswinds, you can't really hit straight shots and hit fairways in a lot of spots. You've got to shape it. That's what makes this golf course so difficult is the varying lines with your shapes with the wind is a combination that's pretty tou


Q. How excited are you this week and how anxious are you to get going on Thursday because it's a major and because it's in your home state?

JERRY KELLY: I can't believe how quick 2004 got here. I mean, I talk about when they first announced this -- I mean, I wasn't even on TOUR by then, and all of a sudden, boom, it's here. It's doing the same thing, the month leading up to it. It's flying by. I think that's a good thing. I've waited for so many things for so long, and they have taken so long to get here, and this one is really hit me like a Mack truck; it's coming pretty fast and I like that feeling. I don't have time to sit and think about it. I haven't had time to sit and think about it. I'm just happy it's a major in Wisconsin and I am ready to roll. I'm excited.

Q. You dropped a spot in the Ryder Cup points last week. Does that change the approach that you take coming in? Are you going to be more aggressive trying to make up that lost ground, and if it does go to captain's pick, how do you like your chances?

JERRY KELLY: Well, I don't think it changes my approach to the golf course, but there might be a little mental rabbit in the back of my head. I have to chase somebody down. I don't have to look at anybody in my rear-view mirror. When you're 10th, that's not a fun spot to be. You are thinking about not losing.

When you're 11th, you want to go get'em. You want to win. I want to get that guy's spot. That's the mentality that I live for; that's the one that I feel like that I excel in.

I definitely didn't want to drop out of the Top?10 obviously, but from a mental standpoint for me, approaching this week, I think 11th is probably ten times better than me being in 10th. It's something that I can draw off of in tough situations rather than worry about in tough situations. And that could be a little mental edge that I really need this week, and as for a captain's pick, you know, I think my mentality bodes well for match?play. I know I'm a good team player because I've played a ton of team sports. I've got the game that can compete against any of the best players from Europe, day-in and day-out. I think I'd be a great pick.

I absolutely trust whatever Hal does. I accept whatever Hal does. You know, he's going to try and field the best team possible, and I hope if I don't make it into the Top-10 that I would be one of his choices to fill out the best team possible.

Q. You say you were here Sunday. Did you get a chance to watch the telecast? Did you say Jay Haas make that putt that bumped you, and if not, where were you when you found out that you had been bumped?

JERRY KELLY: I walked through the locker room here and saw Jay stake in on the last hole, about 12 feet, and I had to get out of there. Jay is the greatest guy in the world; there's no way I'd sit there thinking about I want him to miss it, because no, I want him to make it and be playing great going into the Ryder Cup. I want to play great here, make my way into the Ryder Cup. Everybody wants to make their way into the Ryder Cup. We don't want to get the spots by someone else's failure. That's not part of this game.

I just left because I didn't want any of those feelings. I wasn't there, I couldn't get the job done that week. But I'm here this week. I knew there was another week; I can get the job done this week and it doesn't matter what happened to Jay. I mean, DiMarco was there, Stewart Cink was there, everyone was playing well and everybody could have passed me. But that doesn't change the fact that if I do my job this week, I'm in.

I think that was awesome of Jay. I mean, he lipped out on 17, too. It was a great finish. He needed the finish, he got the finish and congratulations to him. That's awesome. But we've got another week.

Q. When did you find out he made it, shortly afterward?

JERRY KELLY: Yeah, some of the guys on the range had phones and they get the Internet, so we knew exactly what was going on.

Q. One of the most difficult winds on 17 and 18, I assume playing into the wind on 18 will make it a real bear. Can you describe that?

JERRY KELLY: It was southwest yesterday, and kind of mid to late afternoon, I mean I hit a pretty good drive and I hit a really good 3?wood in the middle of the green, so a heavy southwest is a tough one for 18.

17, I think I hit 3-iron right to the front where that pin was. If we get the -- what are we going to get, the northwest, I mean, it could change it quite a bit. But still, 17 would be blowing directly onto that cliff. So, it doesn't really matter what kind of wind you get on those holes. Those are some tough finishing holes, two of the toughest you'll ever see in golf.

Yeah, you hope it dies when you get there, basically (laughing).

Q. You joked before about trying to convince Tiger to come back and play in the now U.S. Bank Championship. As someone who has played in the final group with him, can you talk about what the Tiger Mania is like when he's playing in tournament? We are seeing reports now of who he's having dinner with, what's going on every moment of his life. What's that like out on the course?

JERRY KELLY: I read that article at home, by the way. What did he have? Pasta primavera?

JERRY KELLY: It's what I live for on the golf course, is what Tiger gets. It's unbelievable the amount of people, the amount of distractions. It's like a football game, basketball game, baseball game. It's not like you're at a golf tournament. You're at a sporting event now. You know, there's some heckles, there's some yells, and there's just a lot of action going on, and you have got to focus your way through it and forget it.

Actually, I'm much better in that position than when there's hardly anybody out there watching me. It's much easier to drown out a crowd than it is to drown out an individual. It just brings you into focus.

You can see, he's learned to do that from early on, because he's had to deal with this for a long time. That's what makes him so special is his ability to tune out. I enjoy playing with him because I like to watch what he does. I like to learn from it and I've learned a lot -- I learned last year at the Presidents Cup when I sat out the morning matches. I went out and really took a lot from his mental focus going around the golf course. When you've got that Tiger Mania going on, you'd better have some focus.

Q. You've talked about how you've played the course quite a bit and signed you've obviously signed a lot of autographs this week. Yesterday Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood spoke to the fatigue factor they felt walking around the golf course once. What are you going to do to guard against being too tired on Thursday?

JERRY KELLY: I get in here, I play nine holes four days in a row. I get in, I don't wear myself out. It's still an eight- or nine-hour day, only playing nine holes. It's big for me not to destroy my legs. That's a big part of my swing.

Once the tournament starts and you have adrenaline, it's very easy to go 18 for four days. I wouldn't say easy, it starts getting tougher on Sunday. But the amount of adrenaline that I pull out, I've got no problem doing it for the tournament days, just so I don't spend any adrenaline by doing too much early.

Q. Is there a dominant player on TOUR right now or are the Top 15 or 20 so close?

JERRY KELLY: You know, I wouldn't put 15 to 20 in there. I'd say Tiger, Phil, Ernie and Vijay are playing dominant golf. Retief, when he's on, he can play dominant golf.

Outside of that group, there's really no dominant golf, I would say. I mean, I could dominate the week, but you're talking about consistently being in the top 5, and that's dominant golf. It's tough to finish in the top 5 week-in and week-out on this tour. There's a lot of great players, so for them to be in that position so often is pretty impressive.

You certainly can't go down any further than that to find somebody who is doing that consistently.

Q. Obviously this is your eighth PGA Championship. As you got in the majors more and more, when did you become more comfortable with the major atmosphere and I guess how do you feel among golf's best?

JERRY KELLY: I always knew earlier in my career that some of my best rounds were against great field events. It just seemed that when I took my game to the majors, I couldn't recover from the mistakes that I made quite as easily, which is what makes it a major.

So, I just make too many mistakes in majors, and I force too many issues. When I play my game, I can play with the best players in the world. I can compete, I can win, any way you want to put it.

But it's all on me, basically, and that's what I'm trying to change, that's what I'm working to avoid. That's the care more, care less within the same round type theory. I know I'm going to get better. I'm not going to get worse. I'm working as hard as anybody out here, and working on the mental is harder than working on the physical, and that's really where I need my most improvement.

So, I'm not going to stop working until I see success and do some of the things that I want to do, and that's going to take a lot of work. I'm fully prepared to do whatever it takes.

JULIUS MASON: Thank you very much, Mr. Kelly.

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