Jerry Kelly, a US veteran seeking his first title in seven years, fired a three-under par 69 on Saturday to stretch his lead to three strokes after the third round of the PGA Zurich Classic.
Kelly, who last won at the 2002 Western Open, led by one stroke after 36 holes and boosted the margin by finishing 54 holes on 13-under par 203, three strokes ahead of compatriot Steve Marino in the 6.2 million-dollar event.
A bogey-free round for Kelly included birdies at the par-5 second hole plus the par-4 fifth and 15th holes.
“My goal was to be comfortable,” said Kelly, who withdrew from the Verizon Heritage last week because of the flu and a dislocated rib that left him with a painful back.
“I’m not going to force shots.” Kelly said he “played smart” when he found himself in trouble, and that along with an improved swing was enough to keep him in front. “I just try to be comfortable with what I’ve got,” he said.
Marino, by contrast, had a roller-coaster round that began with back-to-back birdies followed by a double bogey at the par-3 third. After closing his front nine with three birdies, Marino opened the back nine with a bogey but birdied 11 and 12.
A birdie at the 16th was followed by a bogey at the par-5 18th. “It came out real hot and went over the green,” Marino said of his bogey at the last.
“That’s the last place you want to be. I ended up making six. But I played well all day, and I look forward to more.” Sharing third on 207 were Australian Rod Pampling, South Korea’s Charlie Wi and Americans Aaron Watkins, John Rollins and Charles Howell. A pack of seven more players on 208 included South Africa’s Rory Sabbatini.
Pampling’s round was marred by a double bogey at 12. “Trust me, I wasn’t very happy,” Pampling said. “You know, hitting a 5-wood and the ball plugs, you’re never too happy after that. But I’d been playing good. I hadn’t made too many mistakes.”
Wi, who had held the first-round lead, said the swirling winds made life tough on Saturday. “It’s very difficult with the wind conditions,” Wi said.
“Especially on 17, you get it next to the water. And you make mistakes there.” Kelly said he kept tabs on his rivals throughout the round. “I’m always aware of where I stand,” he said.
“I look at the leaderboards. I like to know those things. I don’t like surprises coming at me.” But he said he wouldn’t be fretting as he looked forward to possibly returning to the winner’s circle.
“I fully intend to be able to sleep tonight,” he said. “And I fully intend to come out and try to enjoy the round tomorrow. I’m going to have fun and see what happens.”