The offseason was a time for Tacoma’s Troy Kelly to take a step back and reflect on his 2012 PGA Tour season.
It was Kelly’s second stint on golf’s elite professional tour, and the Central Kitsap High School graduate made significant strides in many areas.
He continued to smash the golf ball off the tee, ranking 23rd in average driving distance (299.5 yards). And on par-3 holes, he was among the best on tour in scoring, averaging 3.02 strokes (18th overall).
He was a bit streaky with his iron play, but still had enough confidence in that ball-striking area to fire away at tough pin locations. And his “scrambling” — up-and-down conversions around the greens — was just a shade under 60 percent, which by PGA Tour standards is way above average.
And yet, his scoring average wasn’t nearly where he wanted it to be – 71.53 strokes per round – because of his putting. He also made just 11 of 23 tournament cuts. The highlight of his season was the dramatic sudden-death playoff loss to Ted Potter Jr. at The Greenbrier Classic, which essentially earned him enough money to clinch his PGA Tour card for this season.
Kelly opens this season today at the Humana Challenge, which is being played just down the street from his La Quinta, Calif., residence at PGA West resort.
Putting is where Kelly struggled most. And even though he got the putter rolling for that one week in July to nearly nab his first PGA Tour win, the rest of the weeks, it was a mystery how he would perform on the greens.
“I was missing cuts by one shot. And I was on the cut line all the time,” Kelly said. “It was because I was not making putts.”
And life on the cut line is an uneasy, stressful feeling. When you are fighting every Friday for the chance to play on the weekend, Kelly said, that kind of anxiety percolates to every aspect of your game.
“You are sweating every shot,” Kelly said.
So this winter, Kelly began working with short-game coach Mike Schy, a volunteer assistant coach at Fresno State who advocates Vector putting — which uses math and science to read greens.
“It is based off science, and the percentage of slope and how gravity takes a (golf ball) on putts,” Kelly said. “It has been good for me, because it gives you a process to go through. And the way I am thinking about putting is different — I am a little more positive about the process.”
Schy also gave Kelly another tip: Change putters.
It was during a practice session in December that the instructor noticed Kelly’s was fighting his putting stroke, which he normally opens on the backswing and closes in the follow-through.
Schy went into his shop, and brought out a new putter for Kelly to try.
“I have always putted with a face-balanced, or mallet putter because I love the look of it. But the mallet putter is meant for a straight-back and straight-through stroke,” Kelly said. “So (Schy) gave me a toe-balanced putter.”
Positive results were instantaneous.
“I did not change anything and my ball started rolling better, which is so key when you are on grainy Bermuda grass, where if you do not roll it well, it gets chewed up,” Kelly said.
“I feel like we (brother Ryan, his caddie) read the greens well, but we just haven’t rolled it well — and it affects putts. Now I am excited to putt. I am having fun putting again.”
ABOUT TROY KELLY
Residence: La Quinta, Calif.
Schools: Central Kitsap/University of Washington.
2012 season: Made 11 cuts in 23 events, posted one top-10 finish and totaled $786,832 in season earnings. Lost a sudden-death playoff at The Greenbrier Classic (16-under-par 264) in July.
Best finish in 2012 at a major: Missed the cut at the British Open (8-over 148).
World ranking heading into this season: 251st.
Caddie: Ryan Kelly, his brother.
Swing instructor/short-game coach: Bob Kelly, Ken Kubitz/Mike Schy.
Sports psychologist: Glen Albaugh.
Agent: Lagardere Unlimited.
In the bag: Cleveland Classic driver, Cleveland Classic 3-wood, Cleveland 588 TT irons, Cleveland 588 wedges, Taylor Made putter, Titleist Pro V1x golf balls (2009).
Endorsements: Cleveland Golf, Cutter & Buck clothing, SoftwareMedia.com, Cushman & Wakefield real estate.
Five to thrive in: Humana Challenge, today through Sunday, PGA West (Palmer Course), La Quinta, Calif.; Waste Management Phoenix Open, Jan. 31-Feb. 3, TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Shell Houston Open, March 28-31, Redstone Golf Club, Humble, Texas; The Greenbrier Classic, July 4-7, The Old White TPC, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.; Reno-Tahoe Open, Aug. 1-4, Montreux Golf and Country Club, Reno, Nev.Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 email@example.com blogs.thenewstribune.com/golf @ManyHatsMilles firstname.lastname@example.org