Injured toe aside, Kelly’s 65 moves him four ahead at the halfway point
March 31, 2021
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
LITCHFIELD PARK, Arizona—Ten days ago, Tee-K Kelly wasn’t sure he would be able to play in this week’s Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada Qualifying Tournament at The Wigwam’s Gold Course. Six stiches on the big toe of his right foot left him questionable. Monday night, a doctor removed the stitches, and Kelly answered the bell Tuesday morning with a 3-under 69. In Wednesday’s second round, under more adverse conditions as the wind blew steadily the entire day, Kelly shot a tournament-best, 7-under 65 to seize control of the tournament by four shots over Sam Triplett. Another six players are five shots behind Kelly’s leading pace.
“I’m very grateful that I’m able to play right now. A week ago, I hadn’t even swung a golf club. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to play this week,” said Kelly, alluding to the watercraft accident he had in Florida when he stepped on an oyster and severely cut his toe. “I had a good mindset for this week. I’m just really grateful to be out here. It’s weird to be out here. I haven’t played many four-round events lately.”
For the second consecutive day, Kelly began his round with birdies at the first and second holes. He tacked on birdies at No. 4, chipping to a foot. A No. 7, he drained one from seven feet and made a 15-footer at No. 9. Kelly turned to the back nine in 31 strokes.
“I feel like I play a fair amount of tournaments where (No.) 1 is a par-5, and I like when the opening hole is a par-5 because there is something that eases your mind when you’re 1-under through one, “ he said, apparently the Gold Course playing into his strategy. “But if you par that first hole, I’m like, man, I’ve already wasted an opportunity. So, good birdies both days.”
At No. 10, Kelly kept the momentum going, pouring in a 25-footer for another birdie. “I was cruising at that point. I was feeling good,” said the Wheaton, Illinois, native who still lives in Chicagoland. Kelly only made one more birdie the rest of the way but was pleased with the way his first 36 holes have unfolded.
“I’m pretty happy. I maxed out my round pretty well. I had a good (birdie) chance on 15 (that he missed from right around eight feet). The pins are pretty tough on the last couple of holes. I gave myself good looks. I just didn’t make any of the longer putts,” he explained.
Triplett improved on his opening 70 with a 4-under 68, closing his round with three birdies and two pars.
Kelly and Triplett will join Kevin Velo as the last group in the third round. They tee off at 12:55 p.m. PDT.
Did you know the 61 Tee-K Kelly shot in the opening round of PGA TOUR Latinoamérica’s 2017 Puerto Plata DR Open came thanks to 10 birdies on the par-71 course? That is still his career-low round on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, the Mackenzie Tour or the Korn Ferry Tour.
How the Tournament Works
One-hundred-two players entered this tournament and 100 remain (Peter Thorseth and Dominic Trutocao both withdrew following their rounds). Below is a breakdown of the various Mackenzie Tour membership statuses available this week.
Exempt membership for the 2021 season
2nd through 6th (no ties
Exempt through the reshuffle, which will occur approximately halfway through the season
7th through 25th (plus ties)
• This is a 72-hole, no-cut event. There will be playoffs, if necessary, for the medalist position and for the sixth and final position available.
• Players in this week’s field come from eight countries or regions (Canada, Chinese Taipei, England, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, Sweden and the United States).
• In his career, after playing collegiately at Ohio State, Tee-K Kelly played on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica as a rookie in 2017. That season, Kelly finished seventh on the Order of Merit, thanks, in part, to his victory at the Puerto Plata DR Open in the Dominican Republic. Kelly defeated Ryan Ruffels by seven shots after opening with a 61 and cruising over his final 54 holes, with a 67-66-69 finish.
• Kyle Slattery opened this Qualifying Tournament in disappointing fashion, shooting a first-round, 6-over 78 that included three balls in the water. He did what he had to overcome that slow start by rebounding with a 5-under 67 Wednesday. He moved up 46 places on the leaderboard and is tied for 41st with 36 holes to play. “I honestly told myself to shoot 6(-under) and get back to even-par. That’s at least what I thought I needed to do. But after being out there, as the day went on, I knew the scores were going to be high. It was good to get myself back in the mix,” he said.
• Mexico’s Aaron Terrazas and Aaron Whalen also had big moves on the second day, improving 34 positions after posting 70s to go with their opening 74s.
• Even with his six birdies against only one par, Kyle Slattery kept his round together during a three-hole stretch early on the back nine. He was over the green on both 11 and 12 with his approach shots and was able to get up and down. On No. 13, he missed the green short and to the right, picked out a spot on the fringe and bumped his chip to tap-in range.
• In his lone PGA TOUR Latinoamérica win, Tee-K Kelly made birdies in the first and final rounds at the par-5 first at Playa Dorada Golf Course in the Dominican Republic. In his other two rounds, he made eagles. He’s opened with a pair of birdies this week at the Gold Course’s par-5 No. 1.
• Sam Triplett has never played in an official Mackenzie Tour tournament. He tied for 36th at the 2019 Mackenzie Tour Qualifying Tournament in San Antonio.
• Eighteen amateurs are playing this week at The Wigwam. Leading the way is Matt McCarty, at 4-under. Others under-par through 36 holes are Clay Feagler (2-under) and Kaito Onishi, Cooper Dossey and Blake Wagoner (1-under).
• Sahith Theegala had the best improvement of the day, shooting a 69 after opening with a 6-over 78. He is tied for 53rd after jumping from a tie for 87th when the day began.
• The par-5 14th hole was again the easiest hole at the Gold Course on Wednesday. The stroke average there was 4.431 a day after it was 4.471. The most-difficult hole was No. 9. The par-4 played to an average of 4.480, yielding only five birdies all day.
• There were 44 under-par scores in the opening round, 17 of them in the 60s. In Wednesday’s second round, there were nine rounds in the 60s and only 23 under-par efforts.
“I made a couple of eight-foot par putts. Other than that, it was pretty stress-free.” –Tee-K Kelly on his bogey-free 65
“I feel like I always play pretty well at these Q-Schools. There’s always something nice knowing you have a lot of golf ahead of you. Sometimes in events with cuts, you get off to a rocky start and you’re thinking about the cut already and it’s not that long of a week. Out here, you’re playing 72 holes no matter what. That makes me more comfortable. I can get settled in.” –Tee-K Kelly
“Since I turned pro, for so many years, the people I’ve seen the most are the people who work on the Tours and other players. For the last 12 months I haven’t seen any of those guys. It feels nice to be back and to see familiar faces.” –Tee-K Kelly
“I just played smart golf. You really have to place the ball off the tee and make sure you miss in the right spots.” –Kyle Slattery
“You had to be really precise and knock out the holes into the wind. It’s pretty much what I did, and I took advantage of those holes and the shorter holes coming in and got a few putts to fall.” –Kyle Slattery
“The course played a lot tougher today because the greens firmed up tremendously. There were a few wedge shots that you literally couldn’t hold the green if you were too close to the green.” –Fredrik Lindblom
“I would say it played probably three shots tougher today. It’s all about the greens. The surfaces are rock-solid now.” –Fredrik Lindblom
“I hit a few full wedges, and they’re rolling out 10 to 15 yards, and that’s how wide these greens are. So, if you’re too close or too far away, you’re going to struggle with the greens.” –Fredrik Lindblom
“I didn’t do a good enough job today to lay back off the tee. I hit it too far up there, and I made some bogeys because of it.” –Fredrik Lindblom
Second-Round Weather: Hot and sunny, with a high of 89. Wind blew steadily most of the day, NE from 8 to 10 mph, gusting to 13 mph.