Madison’s Jerry Kelly claims American Family Insurance Championship title

VERONA, Wis. — Twice on Sunday Jerry Kelly was ready to give his version of a concession speech. Less than 45 minutes later the Madison resident was holding up the glass trophy after winning the American Family Insurance Championship.

Kelly played a great final round with seven birdies and had a one-shot lead when he stepped to the tee on the 18th hole. A birdie or par likely would have given him the win. Instead, he bogeyed for just the second time the entire tournament.

He walked off the green in a three-way tie at -15 and behind him Retief Goosen smoked a perfect shot within a few feet of the hole, giving him a perfect opportunity to break the tie and take the lead with a short putt. Kelly made his way to the media room, fully expecting Goosen to make the shot and waiting for all “what happened” questions from reporters. But then, Goosen’s putt lipped out, giving Kelly life again and he left the media area.

Minutes later, though, fellow Madison resident Steve Stricker, also at 15-under, put himself in position to win with a birdie putt. Back down the steps to the media room came Kelly, expecting the guy he later called the best putter he’s been around to knock it in. But, like Goosen, Stricker couldn’t finish.

“(I) misread it a little bit. I didn’t think it was going to break as much as it did and it just snapped off at the end. I thought I hit a pretty good putt,” Stricker said. “But, yeah, a little disappointing when you get that opportunity to close it out and have about an eight- or 10-footer to do it, you want to make it and be done, but I didn’t.

“I mean, I couldn’t ask for a better situation. I hit a great shot in there and I had nothing to lose at that point. It’s mine to win. You want to capitalize on those.”

Kelly needed both men to miss relatively close putts and it happened.

“I wasn’t going to leave (the course), but I came (into the media room) and I sat down,” Kelly said. “I was sitting right here when Goosen missed, so I figured I better come back and sit down right here when Strick was putting just in case I had to talk with you guys again.

“I wasn’t going to walk out, but it was going to be probably pretty short, I’m guessing.”

All of the dramatics led to a three-way playoff. Stricker bogeyed the first playoff hole, leaving Goosen and Kelly. They each got pars on the second playoff hole before Kelly birdied the third for the win.

“I’m thankful I got that second chance when you’re the one who kind of fails and lets guys into it,” Kelly said. “Then you feel like you’ve got that second life. I didn’t feel like I needed to go to the range because I felt like I was still pretty jacked up from watching everything that was going on. Yeah, it was kind of surreal. It was fun.”

It was Kelly’s first win in the state of Wisconsin, his first win on the Champions Tour since Jan. 2018 and his fourth win overall. It also was his first win since his father passed away.

“The chills were flying up and down. It was pretty amazing,” Kelly said. “You know, my mom saying the sun came out, my dad was there. I haven’t won since my dad passed, so this was the first one and I was talking to him all the time. There were a lot of birdies coming up and chirping right next to me and I was like, ‘Hey, hey, Dad, how are you?’ It was kind of surreal.”

This was the fourth year of the tournament and every time the winner was not the leader coming into the final round.

“It really is truly awesome,” Kelly said. “You guys know what it’s about. It’s about friends and family, and to be able to do it in front of everybody…this is pretty sweet.”

Steve Stricker, Jerry Kelly will have to come from behind to win American Family Insurance Championship

VERONA, Wis. — If Steve Stricker or Jerry Kelly are going to win their first tournament in the state of Wisconsin they’ll have to do it from behind.

The two Madison residents both trail leader Steve Flesch after two rounds of the American Family Insurance Championship, with Stricker a shot back at -10 and Kelly two off the lead at -9.

Flesch took sole possession of the lead with a birdie on the 18th hole, as he went 7-under for the day.

“I played very good the last two days actually. Hit a lot of good shots, had a lot of opportunities,” Flesch said. “So two good rounds. And it’s nice because I haven’t played particularly well here in my two previous showings.”

Everyone is chasing Flesch, including three golfers sitting a 10-under. Stricker is one of them after posting back-to-back rounds of 67. The highlight of day two came on the par-5 16th, when a perfect pitch nabbed him an eagle.

“I needed that,” Stricker said. “I’m in position to try to win this tomorrow and that’s a good feeling. There’s a lot of guys bunched up there, though. I imagine somebody’s going to come out of that pack with a good round, shoot a good round tomorrow, and that means that’s what I’m going to have to do if I want to have a chance to win.”

Kelly is also in position to win, though he probably should have been in the -10 grouping. Instead, he missed a short putt on the 17th hole that gave him his first bogey of the tournament.

“I had one bogey today. The problem is I only had three birdies,” Kelly said. “The one bogey is no big deal, but when you put it against three birdies, yeah, then it gets tougher.”

The good news for the two local favorites is that in the first three years of the tournament the person leading entering the final round hasn’t gone on to win it.

“Yeah, I sure hope so, because I’m behind,” Stricker said when asked if he hoped that held this year. “This course lends itself to some exciting finishes, I think. It’s kind of a shootout course. You have to play aggressively, there’s birdies to be made. There’s eagles you can make on some of these par 5s, they’re reachable, so a lot can happen in these closing holes. That’s what makes it exciting and fun to play here.”

Celebrity foursome at American Family Insurance Championship set

The American Family Insurance Championship is bringing one of the biggest names in golf history to Madison next month.

The tournament announced Tuesday that Jack Nicklaus will be a part of the celebrity foursome that will play a round on Saturday, June 22.

“It was great that he decided to do it,” said two-time U.S. Open champion Andy North said. “He’s the best that’s ever been.

“It’ll be great having him in town. He will try to show off the best he can.”

North, along with former Packers quarterback Brett Favre and country singing legend Tony Keith will round out the foursome.

“Our celebrity foursome has quickly become a major attraction, but Jack’s presence, along with Andy, Brett and Toby, will make it even more special for our fans,” said American Family Insurance Championship tournament director Nate Pokrass in a release. “You can be sure they’ll entertain the crowds, and help us raise even more money for charity. We’re honored and thrilled to have them.”

You can find more information about the celebrity foursome and the tournament here:

Steve Stricker wins major championship on Champions Tour

Steve Stricker has won a major championship.

The Madison resident shot a 4-under-par 68 Monday afternoon to take home the Regions Tradition title, one of the five majors on the Champions Tour.

“This is special,” said Stricker, who was clearly emotional after the win. “I was never able to win one of these on the regular tour. It means a lot.”

Stricker finished the tournament at 18-under, beating runners-up Billy Andrade, Paul Goydos and David Toms by six shots.

“You come out here hoping to play well and hoping to win. But it’s tough out here. These guys play well. I feel more pressure out here, at times, to perform than I do on the regular tour,” Stricker said. “It’s hard. To finally get this one, it means a lot.”

The win was Stricker’s fourth on the Champions Tour, which is reserved for players 50 years or older.

Stricker is now slated to play in the PGA Championship on the regular tour later this week at Bethpage Black in New York. He’s also expected back in Madison for the fourth year of the American Family Insurance Championship at University Ridge next month (June 15-23).

https://twitter.com/ChampionsTour/status/1128015270205804544

Steve Stricker to be named 2020 Ryder Cup captain

It looks like the 2020 United States Ryder Cup team will be led by a Wisconsin golfer when it competes at Whistling Straits. This will be the first time that the event will take place in Wisconsin.

According to Gary D’Amato of Wisconsin.golf, Madison’s Steve Stricker will be honored at a news conference on Wednesday morning at Fiserv Forum.

https://twitter.com/GOLF_com/status/1097594330510958593

Stricker is a three-time Ryder Cup assistant captain. He will become the first U.S. captain in history without a major championship.

The U.S. has struggled in the Ryder Cup, having lost four of the last five meetings and seven of the last nine. The Europeans dominated in 2018 winning 17½ | 10½ at Le Golf National in France.

There will be a lot of pressure on Stricker and the U.S. to win on their home soil in 2020.

Jerry Kelly, Steve Stricker come up just short at American Family Insurance Championship

MADISON — On Friday, Steve Stricker told reporters that events on the Champions Tour are “do-it-every day” type of tournaments because they last only three days, one less than on the main PGA Tour. Unfortunately for the Madison resident, he only played well on two of the three days, which led to his three-way third-place finish in the American Family Insurance Championship at University Ridge this weekend.

“[It’s] a microcosm of my year, really,” said Stricker, who shot 13-under for the tournament. “Some really good things and then throw some not-so-good things. Like yesterday, the whole round yesterday, that was the worst round I’ve played all year on any of the tours. That just killed me. If I could have just shot even par yesterday it would have given me a better opportunity.”

Instead, he shot a 2-over par 74, leaving him a 6-under coming into Sunday. Not even a very good round of 65 could get him to the top of the leaderboard.

Fellow Wisconsin native, Jerry Kelly, was also in the mix coming down the stretch, spending time in first place at 14-under. But he, like Stricker, couldn’t top Scott McCarron, who earned his first tour win of the year by shooting an 8-under 64 in the final round to finish at 15-under.

“I really thought it was going to happen,” Kelly said of him winning on what some might call his home course. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t as aggressive as I should have been on 16 and 17.”

Stricker was several holes in front of both Kelly and McCarron and knew the type of score he was going to need to win. But he missed birdie putts on the 17th and 18th holes that would have got him there.

“When we were coming in, I told Nicki (his wife and caddie) we’ve got to try to get to 15 [under],” Stricker said. “I saw that these guys are behind me, so I knew that they had the same holes to try to birdie as I did. I just thought that I needed to get to that number and just came up a little bit short. Had the opportunities, I just didn’t make those putts I needed to coming in.”

Kelly also had opportunities that he wasn’t able to convert, which were still on his mind afterwards.

“I’m disappointed, there’s no doubt,” Kelly said. “I want those putts back. I want to just go ahead and hit them hard, who cares what happens.”

In the end, though, both were pleased with the week overall, especially Stricker, who serves as host a tournament that is about a lot more than just golf. Nearly all the events this week, including a big concert Friday night, served as a fundraiser for the American Family Insurance Children’s Hospital.

“We’re fortunate the word is out that we’re doing some good things here, and obviously we’re raising monies for charities,” Stricker said. “But to get the support from the community and players alike [is great].”

Team Favre wins celebrity foursome at American Family Insurance Championship

MADISON — While the story of the day on Friday at the American Family Insurance Championship was how well tournament host Steve Stricker played, Saturday wasn’t the same.

The reasoning behind that was not only Stricker’s rough day (2-over for the day, 6-under for the tournament), but also the celebrity foursome that took place in the afternoon.

Lee Trevino, Andy North, Derek Jeter, and Brett Favre all took on the back-nine at University Ridge once the final group of the day had passed on through.

Trevino and North are both two-time U.S. Open winners, Jeter will one day find himself as a member of baseball’s hall of fame — likely as soon as he’s eligible in 2019 — and Favre is a three-time NFL MVP and a Super Bowl champion. It would be rather difficult to assemble a more accomplished foursome.

The group started on the 10th hole and they were individually introduced. As imagined, Favre received the loudest ovation.

The foursome split in teams of two, with North and Favre making up one team while Jeter and Trevino composed the second.

Things stayed close throughout the nine-hole event, as neither team opened up more than a one-stroke lead the entire time.

Obviously, North and Trevino were both excellent golfers in their day and still have some of what made them great when they were on tour. Trevino — at 79 years of age — can’t quite generate the club speed as the other three, but he still knew his way around the course.

“These guys [on tour] are swinging at 115 miles an hour, average 113,” Trevino said prior to the round. “I’m not even in the 90s any more. I don’t know if I was in the 90s I guess in my heyday.”

He couldn’t quite keep up with the others distance wise, but he was still pretty solid on the course, and certainly a treat to be around.

One of the more enjoyable things for spectators was the ability to hear when the players were saying to each other when they were within earshot of fans. There were a few times throughout the round that one of the players would joking warn fans to watch out in case of an errant shot.

Jeter was certainly impressive as a golfer. He was able to make solid contact more times than not, which could be expected of a member of baseball’s 3000-hit club. The former captain of the New York Yankees also knew his way around the green, dropping in multiple putts from 15 feet or more.

As for Favre, there were times he looked as if he belonged, but also some others where he looked much more like a normal person on the golf course.

He did, however, clinch the victory for his team on the 18th green.

Stricker’s struggles

While Stricker finished the first round with the lead on Friday carding an 8-under 66, the course wasn’t as kind to him on Saturday.

Stricker’s lone birdie came on the 18th hold as he finished with a 2-over, 74 for the round. This was the first over-par round of his PGA Tour Champions career.

Stricker had carded 30 consecutive rounds under par, which is the fourth-longest streak in the history of the tour.

“It was a tough day, but that was a big birdie in my mind,” Stricker said of his birdie on the 18th hole. “It kept me a little bit closer. I mean, no one ran away with this thing today and three shots back, a lot of guys between me and the lead. Yeah, it was a good putt to make and finally get a birdie.

“It was just one of those days where I didn’t have a lot of energy. Nothing — hit very few good shots really. The couple that I did hit well, I was in bad spots, and a couple of bad shots even got worse. So nothing really went my way today except for that last putt.”

Stricker will begin the final round on Sunday tied for 14th at 6-under. He will tee off at 10 a.m. CT.

Madison’s other resident

With Stricker being the host of the tournament, it’s sometimes easy to forget about the other Madison resident playing in the tournament. Jerry Kelly certainly had a better day than Stricker on Saturday.

After shooting a 4-under 68 on Friday, Kelly followed that up with a 3-under 69 Saturday at University Ridge. He’s currently sitting at 7-under for the weekend and finds himself in a tie for sixth with seven other players.

Leader in the clubhouse

Esteban Toledo entered the day five shots off the lead after posting a 3-under 69 on Friday. Saturday was a much better day for him as he was 6-under, climbing all the way up to first on the leaderboard.

Toldeo holds a one-stroke lead over David Toms, Kent Jones, Fred Couples, and Billy Mayfair for the lead. The final group of Toledo, Toms, and Jones will tee off at 11 a.m. CT on Sunday morning.

Steve Stricker leads after first round of American Family Insurance Championship

MADISON — The first round of the American Family Insurance Championship is in the books, and there is a familiar name atop the leaderboard.

Madison’s Steve Stricker shot an 8-under 64 at University Ridge on Friday and owns a 1-shot lead in the Champions Tour event.

“It’s good just to get off to a fast start, which is key out here,” Stricker said. “There’s only three rounds, so you need to have a do-it-every-day attitude. This was the first day and I did well today. I’ve got to do the same thing (Saturday) and just keep doing what I’m doing. Just keep putting it in play and giving myself opportunities.”

Stricker went through the first nine holes at 4-under, but it probably should have been better. He missed a putt on the ninth hole for par that still had him a little upset afterwards, but he finished strong on the back nine.

“Absolutely not [with] the way he’s been playing,” said fellow Wisconsin native Jerry Kelly when asked if he was surprised with how well Stricker scored. “I talked with him (Thursday), and he was, of course, complaining that he couldn’t make anything. I know how well he’s hitting it.”

It’s Stricker’s second year being able to play on the Champions Tour, and the event makes for a tough back-to-back with the U.S. Open happening the week prior. But the fact he serves as the host, and more importantly, knowing all the benefits the event has for the kids at the American Family Children’s Hospital, Stricker is grinding through.

“It’s a lot of adrenaline this week. That’s kind of what I’m running on, I think,” Stricker said. “It’s a big week for us, so I’m just going with it. I’ll hit the wall, I’m sure, next week.”

Before that happens, he’ll have to fend off a stable of players that are within striking distance of the lead. Brad Bryant, who said he’s playing simply to get himself prepared for the U.S. Senior Open coming up, shot a 7-under 65 and sits in second place. Two shots behind him is Colin Montgomerie, John Daly and Steve Flesch. Kelly is tied for sixth at 4-under and last year’s champion, Fred Couples, is at 3-under.

“Now, it’s actually more fun,” Kelly said of the second and third rounds. “It’s ‘let’s go chase Steve.’”

Stricker hanging around at the British Open after two rounds

The British Open hasn’t seen many low scores today due to heavy wind and rain, which has allowed a number of players to still be in the mix heading into the weekend. Play was briefly suspended after a heavy rain, which lead to puddles on some of the greens. Many golfers are already in the clubhouse, while others are finishing up their second round at Royal Birkdale Golf Club.

After finishing yesterday with an even par 70, Stricker continues to hang around the top-half of the leaderboard. Stricker shot +2 today, good enough for a 72 and puts him currently tied for 28th place. He struggled on the front nine, bogeying three holes and paring the other six. His back nine was more Stricker-like as he finished with eight pars and a birdie. He seems to have figured out hole 17, as he’s birdied it both days. On the other hand, he’s struggled on hole 6, bogeying it both rounds. Stricker should make the cut, as the projected cut is sitting at +5 to make the weekend.

Jordan Spieth is still currently holding on to the lead, as he’s -1 today through 13 holes and -6 under for the tournament. Matt Kuchar and Brooks Koepka are also still high on the leaderboard, as they are tied for second. Kuchar is in the clubhouse, as he shot +1 for the day, but is -4 for the tournament. Koepka, this years U.S. Open Champion, is +1 through 11 holes today, and is also -4 for the tournament.

Notables

Rory Mcllroy -1 for the tournament

Bubba Watson E for the tournament

Defending champion Henrik Stenson E for the tournament

Ernie Els +1 for the tournament

Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler +2 for the tournament\

Dustin Johnson +3 for the tournament

Phil Mickelson +10 for the tournament

Stricker solid in British Open first round

The British Open also known as “The Open” started today and over half of the golfers have already finished up their first round. The British Open is the third major during the golf season. The co-leaders in the clubhouse are Jordan Spieth and this year’s U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka, who shot a -5 under 65. Fan favorite Matt Kuchar is also at -5 under through 11 holes. 

Wisconsin’s own Steve Stricker made the trip across the pond to compete in the tournament. Stricker shot a even par 70, which currently has him tied for 34th. On the front nine, Stricker compiled seven pars and two bogeys. He finished his back nine with three birdies, one bogey, and five pars. Stricker is still searching for his first major championship win.

Notables

Hideki Matsuyama shot -2 for the day

Henrik Stenson shot -1 for the day

Jason Day is -1 through thirteen holes

Rickie Fowler is E through twelve holes

Dustin Johnson is E through seven holes

Phil Mickelson is E through five holes

Bubba Watson is +1 through five holes

Sergio Garcia is +2 through thirteen holes

Jason Dufner shot +3 for the day

Rory Mcllroy is +5 through seven holes