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Jerry Kelly takes home Senior Players Championship

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Jerry Kelly laughs as his putt fails to fall into the 15th hole during third round of the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship at Firestone Country Club on Saturday.Bridgestone 4
Credit: Jeff Lange / USA TODAY NETWORK

Jerry Kelly continued his strong 2022 season by winning the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship with a final-round 2-under 68 at Akron, Ohio Sunday.

Kelly, 55, earned his 10th PGA Tour Champions victory and his second major by firing three birdies over the final six holes. He finished with an 11-under 269 at Firestone Country Club, holding main challenger Steve Stricker (68) at bay.

Kelly, who sits sixth on the Charles Schwab Cup money list, previously won the Senior Players Championship in 2020.

“(This championship) means a lot,” Kelly said. “I wasn’t feeling too good when I went back to The Players Championship in March last time. I’m really excited that that’s what we get to do after winning here. But to get a second major out here, that really kind of makes me feel a whole lot better. One, you always want that second one. This one’s pretty exciting.”

Prior to his productive Sunday, Kelly received some helpful advice from his wife.

“Right when we left in the car, she just said it doesn’t matter what happens, just go out there, just have a positive attitude and it’s going to come to you,” Kelly said. “I kept on saying, OK, I’m going to smile when I miss this one and it’s going to come to me and they ended up coming at the end.”

A pair of birdies on Nos. 16 and 17 gave Kelly some distance over his nearest competition, and he shot par on the final hole to prevent any comebacks.

Stricker, aiming to defend his 2021 title, carded bogies on Nos. 13 and 15 to harm his run after shooting 3 under over the first 12 holes. He rallied with a birdie on 17 to finish two strokes behind Kelly with a 9-under 271.

“Yeah, not really what I had in mind,” Stricker said. “I was looking to come out on top of all this. There was a lot of guys in the mix, right, and had a part of the lead there for a little while. Really, just the undoing came at 13. I was going along nicely and hit it in the only spot you can’t hit it in and that’s that bunker. That’s a tough tee ball for me. Yeah, didn’t have a play out of there, so that was a bogey.”

The rest of the top five had an international flair, with New Zealand’s Steven Alker (69) and South Africa’s Ernie Els (68) tying for third with 8-under 272s and Canada’s Stephen Ames (65) and Germany’s Alex Cejka (73) finishing even with Ken Duke (66) and Woody Austin (68) for fifth with at 6-under 274.

Els’ final nine was all over the map, with two bogeys to go along with three birdies. Alker similarly paired two bogeys, including one on No. 18, with two birdies over the back nine.

“I just didn’t have it today,” Alker said. “I just made too many bogeys over the weekend, that was the difference. I made one bogey in 36 holes, first 36, and I don’t know how many I made over the weekend. It was a lot.”

Cejka entered Sunday tied with Kelly for the lead, but he faltered with four bogeys on the back nine.

The top 10 was rounded out by David Toms (5-under 275) and Marco Dawson (4-under 276).

–Field Level Media