WEST SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – Troy Kelly was back in his hotel room, satisfied after a steak dinner and a little weary following two grueling days of pressure-packed golf.
His emotions were mixed after his first PGA Tour victory eluded him when Ted Potter Jr. made a 4-foot birdie putt on the third playoff hole to win the Greenbrier Classic on Sunday.
“I’m still a little bit amped,” Kelly said when reached four hours after the playoff. “But I’m tired, too. I think my brain is going to shut down.”
Tacoma native Kelly, who played for Central Kitsap High and the University of Washington, was rewarded with $658,800 for finishing second and a berth in the British Open, which starts July 19 at Royal Lytham and St. Annes.
“I learned a lot about myself and kind of what your body goes through,” said Kelly, who had hip replacement surgery in September of 2010. “I learned how to respond when I needed to hit some good shots while doing it at the highest level.
“I’ve never been there so I didn’t really know what it would feel like. It was a good learning experience, something I can kind of build off. I haven’t had any success out here, but now going forward, maybe I’ll be able to have more experiences like this one.”
Kelly had won $81,644 in 15 previous events and had never finished higher than 37th in 33 career PGA stops. He jumped from No. 225 to 87 on the PGA Tour’s money list and the odds look pretty good that he’ll be able to remain in the top 125, the cutoff to keep his tour card for the 2013 season.
“Now I’ll be able to pick my schedule and decide which tournaments I will play in,” Kelly said. “I wasn’t going to take a week off. I was going to play seven-eight weeks in a row because I needed to do it to keep my card. I think I’m where I’ll keep my card. ...
“It’s just huge to be able to take a little break and not have that mental grind to do what it takes out here. The last two days, I’ve got a headache just from concentrating so much.”
Kelly, who grew up playing at the Kitsap Golf & Country Club and now lives in La Quinta, Calif., was coming off a day in which he shot an 8-under 62 on The Greenbrier Resort’s Old White TPC Course. He started Sunday’s round two strokes back of U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, who fell out of contention on the back nine. Kelly calmed himself earlier with a birdie putt on No. 2 and he didn’t flinch the rest of the day on his way to shooting a 66 for a 16-under-par total.
The 26-year-old Potter was four strokes back with four holes left, but made long putts for a birdie at No. 15 and an eagle at No. 17, and his 5-footer for birdie on No. 18 tied Kelly, who missed birdie putts on his last two holes.
Both parred the first two playoff holes. Kelly, seemingly out of it on the second playoff hole, made a 22-footer for par on No. 17, putting some pressure on Potter, who missed a 5-footer.
Playing the par-3 18th for the third time on Sunday, Kelly’s tee shot was short of the steep ridge in the middle of the green, while Potter sent his 9-iron onto the top of the ridge and it trickled close to the pin.
Kelly missed his 45-footer birdie putt, then watched Potter close out the win as thunderstorms moved in.
“I am disappointed obviously,” Kelly said of not winning. “With winning comes a lot of other avenues, too. You get in the Masters, you get a two-year exemption. That’s a big deal. ... At the same time I didn’t lose the tournament. That’s one thing I can look back on. I didn’t lose it. He beat me. I played really solid all day.”
Kelly had one bogey over his final 36 holes.
“I didn’t make a double (bogey) this week,” he said. “Normally I would throw a double in there. That was nice. I never made any big numbers. I got in trouble, but when I needed to make a putt under the most pressure you can get, I made one. That was reassuring. That’s something I can look back on to build off of.”
Charlie Wi and rookie Charlile Beljan tied for third at 14 under. Wi shot a 65, and Beljan a 67.
David Summerhays finished fifth at 13 under after a 64. Martin Flores (67) was another stroke back and Simpson (73) tied for seventh with four others at 11 under.Chuck Stark of the Kitsap Sun and The Associated Press contributed to this report.