Troy Kelly was introduced to the country Saturday after shooting a sizzling 8-under-par 62 in the third round of the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic.
Born in Tacoma and raised in Kitsap County, Kelly was the leader in the clubhouse when he finished, but his 12-under total didn’t hold up as U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson shot 65 and got to 14 under on The Greenbrier Resort’s Old White TPC course in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
Kelly, 33, is playing in his 34th career PGA event. The former Washington Huskies All-American’s best previous finish was a tie for 37th in the Mayakoba Classic earlier this year. His biggest PGA Tour payday to date is $16,140. A win this weekend would be worth $1,098,000.
Kelly hit 16 greens and made eight birdies, five on the front nine when he shot a 5-under 29. Kelly, who started the day tied for 23rd, birdied 12, 16 and 17 on the back side of Old White TPC, which is located in the West Virginia hills.
Simpson started the hot, humid day one stroke ahead of five others and five ahead of Kelly. He used birdies on 13 and 14 to catch Kelly, and closed with birdies on 17 and 18. They will be paired in the final group today, teeing off at 10:50 a.m. PDT.
Simpson has won three times in 12 months, and his victory at the U.S. Open last month moved him to fifth in the world rankings. The 26-year-old has played 48 holes without making a bogey.
Kelly, whose world ranking is 464th, has missed eight of 15 cuts but said his ball-striking has been solid for about three weeks.
“It was just nice to see some putts go in,” he said. “I haven’t made a lot of putts the last, I mean, pretty much the whole year. It was fun today.
“I feel like I’m reading the greens well. So hopefully tomorrow I can just work on the same things.”
Kelly entered the Greenbrier Classic 174th in putting on the PGA Tour.
He had two seconds and four top-10 finishes on the Nationwide Tour (now the Web.com Tour) in 2011, but this is the first time he has contended on the PGA Tour. He made three of 17 cuts in 2009.
“I was just kind of thrown into the sharks,” he said of his only other season of competing on golf’s biggest stage.
A couple of seasons on the Web.com Tour helped his confidence, and hip replacement surgery has left him feeling healthy and strong after playing in pain during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. He had surgery in September 2010 and qualified for the Phoenix Open seven months later.
Kelly said he feels like he’s ready to take the next step.
“It will be a different stage (today),” he said. “ I think it will be a good learning experience for me.”
Rookie Charlie Beljan, J.B. Holmes and Ken Duke are one shot back of Kelly at 11 under. Beljan had a 67, Holmes a 66, and Duke a 65.
Ted Potter Jr. (64) was sixth at 10 under, four strokes behind Simpson. Blake Adams (64), Graham DeLaet (64), Charlie Wi (68) and Martin Flores (69) were at 9 under.
Kelly entered the week ranked No. 225 on the PGA Tour money list. The top 125 keep their PGA Tour cards, so this tournament could go a long way toward giving Kelly tour status for another season.