PGA Tour Champions is literally unveiling new additions to its tour on a weekly basis as the 2017 season gets underway.
The season opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii saw 2001 PGA Championship winner David Toms make his debut with a tie for fourth.
Last week, the tour welcomed two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal at the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton.
This week’s Chubb Classic in Naples is introducing three-time PGA Tour winner Jerry Kelly to the 50-and-over circuit. Kelly’s three wins on the PGA Tour were the 2002 Sony Open in Hawaii, 2002 Advil Western Open and 2009 Zurich Classic in New Orleans.
Kelly also won the 2009 Shark Shootout with fellow Wisconsin native Steve Stricker, another of the notables from the PGA Tour who will join the PGA Tour Champions later this year when he turns 50.
Kelly was in the hunt to cap off his PGA Tour career last summer when he finished in second place, one shot behind winner Russell Knox at the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands.
“I was never a dominant player on the PGA Tour,” Kelly said on pgatour.com. “I was probably one of the most successful journeymen to play the game.
“I got a lot or a little out of my game, depending on whom you talk to. One Sports Illustrated article, I’m pretty sure, had a poll that said I was in the top three of most overrated and most underrated. If I would have played less I might have won more. If I wouldn’t have played as much I wouldn’t be in the position I am today, which is fully exempt on the PGA Tour Champions.”
Yours truly had the opportunity to see the “successful journeyman” up close as I walked inside the ropes for 18 holes at Colonial Country Club with the threesome of Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott and Jerry Kelly during rain-soaked final round of the 2015 Dean and DeLuca Invitational.
Scott was the defending champion and Spieth was in between his Masters and U.S. Open victories and both of them received rock star welcomes from the huge Colonial crowds that lined the fairways five-and-six deep all around the classic golf course.
And then there was Jerry Kelly, who several fans referred to as the ‘fifth Beattle’ due in no small part to his relative anonymity. When the marquee group arrived at No. 18, Kelly nearly holed in out of the middle of the fairway, drawing huge cheers from the gallery. He would tap in for a birdie and finish with an very Jerry Kelly-like top 10, two shots behind Spieth and three shots ahead of Scott, who would finish in a tie for 24th.
Just another week at the office for Kelly.
“I’m not coming out here (PGA Tour Champions) with any preconceived notions about how I’m going to play,”Kelly told Golf Channel. “I’m coming out with the expectation that I am going to keep working just as hard as I’ve always worked my entire career. That’s served me well and that’s all I can do. These guys are shooting some fantastic scores, I may have have to learn how to shoot low again.”
Four-time winner Bernhard Langer is the defending champion at the Chubb Classic.
Golf Channel has coverage all three days of the event.