Try rooting for Jerry Kelly

Updated: August 11, 2004, 5:18 PM ET
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

HAVEN, Wis. -- The PGA Championship is upon us. You have the entire week lined up -- play hooky on Thursday, cancel the weekly Friday afternoon tee time, stay glued to the couch through the weekend.

There's only one problem: Who are you going to root for?

Tiger? You've been pulling for him in nine straight majors and he hasn't done squat. Besides, Tiger's got plenty of fans already, thank you very much.

Jerry Kelly
The cheeseheads will be rooting for native son Jerry Kelly this week. Will you?

Phil? Well, you know in your heart you willed that ball into the hole on the 18th at Augusta National. But can you really handle another second- or third-place finish? Don't you have enough heartache in your life already?

How about an underdog? Sure, there's only about 150 to choose from. What are the odds of selecting this year's Shaun Micheel? After all, a year ago you couldn't have picked him out of a lineup.

Here's a suggestion: Try cheering for Jerry Kelly.

Sure, you might be thinking, what's the point in rooting for a guy who's never finished better than 20th at a major? The answer: He needs all the help he can get.

You see, Kelly's biggest goal as a professional golfer -- right up there with winning a major -- is making the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Last week, a 12-foot birdie putt by Jay Haas on the 72nd hole of The International pushed Kelly out of the top 10 in the points standings, meaning right now his spot on the team is in limbo.

"I want to play great here, make my way into the Ryder Cup," Kelly said on Tuesday from Whistling Straits, site of this week's PGA Championship. "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 I live for, that's the one that I feel like that I excel in."

Kind of sounds like a hockey player's mentality which -- oh, by the way -- Kelly is.

If that doesn't get you to rooting for him, how about the fact that Kelly is a Wisconsin native, and a fiercely territorial one at that. He refers to the U.S. Bank Championship, played each year at Brown Deer Park Golf Course in Milwaukee, as "my major". From the comforts of your couch you, too, can join the thousands of Wisconites who will be cheering on Kelly throughout the week.

"All I try to do in Wisconsin is play for the people," said Kelly, who was born in Madison and still lives there. "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."

Kelly's T-31, T-40 and T-47 finishes in the first three majors of the season are somewhat emblematic of his consistent-but-not-spectacular career. Still, Kelly believes he can be a major player in the majors.

"I always knew earlier in my career that some of my best rounds were against great fields," he said. "I'm working as hard as anybody out here. 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."

Are you fully prepared to join the cheeseheads and jump on the Jerry Kelly bandwagon?

You should be. Who knows? You just might pick the winner this time.

Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.

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