RENO - The pressure is off Jerry Kelly, and that could mean some big finishes as the PGA Tour enters its home stretch.
Kelly needed to win the PGA Championship last weekend, but a 76 and 74 over the final two rounds pushed him back to a tie for 34th place and erased any chance for a spot on the prestigious President's Cup squad.
"The external influences are gone," Kelly said as he departed for a practice round Tuesday at the Reno-Tahoe Open at Montreux Country Club. "It's added pressure. You try not to let anything in during the tournament, but you do think about it. I needed to win the PGA Tournament and I didn't do it. I had a good run the first couple of days.
"There is a lot of season left, and I tend to play all the way through. We'll see how things go."
Kelly's goal this week is to put together four solid rounds, something he has yet to do this year.
"My game has gone through a lot of transition," said Kelly, who has made the cut 16 times in 21 events this season. "I've changed my swing and my putting. It may not show, but I'm a better player now.
"The swing is a gradual process. I really have started to feel good. You have to know when you miss a shot. Before I was all about timing. Now, it's all about pace. It makes a difference. You have to know how to get it around the course."
Kelly said the first third of the season involved a lot of equipment changes which caused him some problems. He went back to his old equipment and has been pleased with the results.
Out of the past seven events, he's posted two top-15 finishes. He shot an 8-under par 280 at the Memorial and five weeks later finished 14th with a 10-under-par 270, including four rounds in the 60s, at the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee, Wisc. He's won $783,106, which puts him 72nd on the money list.
A big payday here would boost him up several spots, and he has to be considered one of the favorites to challenge defending champion Vaughn Taylor, who is the first RTO winner to defend his title since the event started in 1999.
This is Kelly's fourth appearance at the RTO, and he's had good success on the par-72, 7,472-yard Jack Nicklaus layout.
In 2001, he led the field after three rounds (66-68-67), and shot a final-round 71, but lost by a stroke to veteran John Cook, whose final-round 64 gave him a tournament-record 271. In 2000, he shot a 6-under 282 and finished tied for 17th.
What does he remember about 2001?
"That I should have won," Kelly said. "That's all I'm going to try and do this year.
"When you play at altitude, you have to be able to judge distance. I feel pretty comfortable adjusting clubs, shots and trajectory. You have to hit it solid. That's the biggest thing. You have to know your distance. It (Montreux) definitely has a Castle Pines feel, but this is more generous."
Darrell Moody can be reached at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281
The Kelly File
Residence: Madison, Wisc.
Joined PGA Tour: 1996
Best finish in 2005: Tied for 8th at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic with a 22-under-par 338
Best RTO finish: Took 2nd place in 2001
Career earnings: $12,110, 504