MEDINAH, Ill. (AP) -- Jerry Kelly finished second in Milwaukee and earned enough points to climb to No. 12 in the Ryder Cup standings, improving his chances of making his first team.
With only three tournaments left to qualify, he then skipped the next two.
Was that a risk?
"It was a risk in getting ready for this one to go to one of those two weeks," Kelly said Monday at the PGA Championship, the final major of the year worth double points toward the Ryder Cup.
Kelly believes he is playing his best golf of the year, and he wanted to be sure he was ready for Medinah. Some believe he should have at least given himself a chance at either the Buick Open or the International, but Kelly figures he would have been burned out and miserable had he gone to either one.
Having dropped one spot to No. 13, he needs at least a two-way tie for eighth to have any chance of making the U.S. team.
"I may be putting all my eggs in one basket, but I don't care," Kelly said. "This is my best chance to win a major. I had not taken two weeks off all year, and I needed it. I worked out, I got strong, I had a great time with my son and I'm as fresh as possible. I did it the right way. Other people might not think so, but I couldn't care less what other people think.
"I've reached the point in my career that I know what's best for me."
Kelly has never had a top 10 in a major, and his best finish at the PGA Championship came in 1999 at Medinah when he tied for 26th.
He was in a similar spot two years ago. He tied for eighth in the Buick Open to move into the 10th spot, took a week off and slipped to No. 11, then missed the cut at Whistling Straits and wound up 13th.
As for the Ryder Cup? He says it's the furthest thing from his mind.
"I want to win this tournament. Man, I'm telling you, I'm playing great," Kelly said. "I'm playing good enough to win this tournament. It's all I think about. And if I do that, the Ryder Cup takes care of itself."
The only time he might consider Ryder Cup ramifications is if he's out of contention for the tournament on the back nine Sunday, knowing a late surge could get him into the top 10 at Medinah to earn enough points to make the team.
Kelly's only cup experience came in South Africa three years ago at the Presidents Cup, when he rallied in his singles match to beat Tim Clark with a birdie on the 18th hole, going 2-2 for the week.
ON THE MEND: Arron Oberholser won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and a tie for fourth at the Colonial moved him farther up the Ryder Cup standings. He tied for 16th at the U.S. Open, and his game showed no sign of faltering.
Then came the cucumbers.
"I was slicing cucumbers one night and sliced open my finger," Oberholser said, showing a small scar from the mishap.
It happened right after Winged Foot, and he went 2 1/2 weeks before he could even grip a club. His next tournament was the British Open, his first experience in links golf and the first time he had ever played a tournament on brown grass. It was a crash course, and he crashed with a 73-75 to miss the cut.
He finished at the bottom of the pack in the Buick Open, then had an injury in his right hip that forced him to withdraw last week in The International. None of this happened at an ideal time, but he felt good Monday at Medinah and was hoping for the best.
Even so, the Ryder Cup has been on his mind.
"I've been thinking about it too much, and it has paralyzed my thinking," Oberholser said. "When you want something too much, you can get in your own way."
But he was inspired by a recent phone call from U.S. Captain Tom Lehman, and he knows Medinah is his last chance.
"This week, I've got to show him something," Oberholser said. "But first things first. I'd like to win the PGA."
NATIONAL CHAMPION: Ron Philo Jr. will be playing in the PGA Championship for the seventh time, but he comes to Medinah feeling a little extra responsibility having won the PGA Professional National Championship earlier this year.
The top 25 from that tournament earn spots in the final major of the year.
"I'll feel different than I have at previous ones, but I'm not sure if that's because I won the national championship [for PGA Professionals] or because I have six under my belt. I guess I'll find out on Thursday."
Philo tied for 66th last year at Baltusrol, the first time he made the cut. His father, Ron Philo, played in the 1976 PGA Championship, missing the cut at Congressional.
This again will be a family affair.
For the third straight year, his little sister will be his caddie, and she brings a wealth of tour experience. That would be Laura Diaz, who plays on the LPGA Tour.
"It's an advantage, because she knows what's going to happen to the golf ball," Philo said. "She knows what's supposed to happen with the golf ball, where it's supposed to be, and she knows how to help me focus in on making it go there."
Philo will play the first two rounds with former PGA champions Larry Nelson and Wayne Grady.
DIVOTS: A tradition at the PGA Championship is to group together the three major champions of the year. That means Masters champion Phil Mickelson and British Open champion Tiger Woods will play together in a major for the first time since the final round of the 2001 Masters, which Woods won for his fourth straight major. Joining them will be U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy. ... Mickelson practiced over the weekend at Medinah after missing the cut in The International, then took the day off Monday.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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