AVONDALE, La.(AP) Now Jerry Kelly has another reason to love New Orleans.
The 42-year-old from Wisconsin rallied on the back-nine for a one-shot victory in the Zurich Classic on Sunday – exactly 200 starts from the last time he picked up the champion’s check.
“It can’t feel much better than to win a golf tournament,” Kelly said as he polished off a tray of charbroiled oysters that his favorite New Orleans restaurant delivered after the win.
Kelly, who combined a week of restaurant hopping with golf, dropped in a 2 1/2-foot putt on 18 to earn $1.1 million, an exemption through 2011, and invitations to the Masters, World Golf Championships and the Mercedes-Benz Championship.
“This has been a long time coming,” Kelly said.
Kelly went into the final round with a three-stroke lead and offset bogeys on No. 8 and No. 10 with birdies on Nos. 5, 11 and 14 for a 1-under 71. He finished at 14-under 274, ahead of Charles Howell, Rory Sabbatini (67) and Charlie Wi (68).
Howell took advantage of Kelly’s mid-round stumble with one of his six birdies on 11, which gave him a two-stroke lead. But bogeys at the 15th and 17th left him with a 68 on the day.
“It’s frustrating,” said Howell. “I got up to 15, and had every chance to do it. I just couldn’t finish it off.”
Kelly, an admitted leaderboard watcher, said seeing Howell take the lead at No. 11 took some of the pressure off him.
“You know, it wasn’t my tournament to lose anymore,” Kelly said. “It was my tournament to go get. And that’s the mind-set I took after 10.”
Steve Marino, playing with Kelly, stayed within a shot until the 18th. Instead of getting the victory or forcing a playoff, he hit his tee shot into a fairway bunker and then needed two putts. The bogey gave him a round of 70 and a tie for fifth, two strokes back.
“I thought I hit a great third shot in there, and it just came off like half a club short in that bunker,” Marino said. “And that was it.”
Kelly’s first title since claiming the Sony Open and Advil Western Open in 2002 provided his biggest payday ever. The winning purse moved Kelly from No. 97 to No. 14 on the money list with $1.4 million.
It also netted him 500 FedEx Cup points, moving him to 17th in the standings.
David Toms, who won this tournament in 2001, had five birdies for a 68. He tied Marino for fifth, climbed in the FedEx Cup standings and into the Players Championship.