No first-round leader has held on to win at The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge, and Kelly, who has a three-stroke lead, is in position to be the first.
Jerry Kelly not only has to contend with history on Sunday as he tries to win the Boeing Classic in wire-to-wire fashion, he also has to deal with a couple of World Golf Hall of Famers among the group of contenders waiting to pounce if he has any letdown.
Kelly, the Wisconsin native and big Green Bay Packers fan, shot a 6-under 66 on Saturday at the Club at Snoqualmie Ridge, and leads by three shots over Billy Mayfair and Jerry Smith.
If Kelly wins, it will be his first victory on the 50-and-older tour in his rookie season, and he would become the first player to win the Boeing Classic after leading after the first round.
Final round, TV coverage begins at 3 p.m., Golf Channel
“I’ll be thrilled if there is another first tomorrow,” said Kelly, who lives in Madison, the city where he was born.
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But don’t worry about Kelly, who is at 13 under, being overconfident. Not with the two Hall of Famers, defending champion Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie, just four shots back.
Langer, who will be celebrating his 60th birthday on Sunday, was four shots behind heading into last year’s final round before rallying to win the event for the second time.
“I would rather be five ahead than (four) behind, but you take whatever happens and go from there,” said Langer, who finished more than an hour before Kelly.
Perhaps Kelly’s most important shot Saturday was his final one. He made a tricky, downhill 15-foot par putt, avoiding dropping a shot after hitting his drive into the fairway bunker.
“It was big,” Kelly said of the par save. “The more you show signs of going backwards, the more they’re going to smell blood in the water.”
Langer, who could become the first three-time winner of the event, has been the dominant player on the PGA Tour Champions for a decade. He was his typical self on his final day in the 50s, shooting a 65. But he lamented that his round wasn’t a bit better, as he was unable to birdie the relatively easy par-5 18th.
Langer was paired with Montgomerie, who also shot a 65.
“I enjoy playing with Bernhard,” he said. “You know if you’re equal with him, you have half a chance and I did that with a good putt on the last (hole).”
Mayfair tied for 21st in this event last year after just turning 50. He said the experience of playing last year has been a big help.
“I have my own yardage book, and I have my own notes from last year,” he said. “I told some of the guys I’m not a rookie. They said, ‘We’ll tell you when you’re not a rookie anymore.’ ”
Four players are five shots back at 8 under, including 2014 champion Scott Dunlap.
There are nine players at 7 under.
For him and the rest of the chase pack, their chances hinge on what Kelly does Sunday. The last time he led entering the final round of a tournament was in 2002 in the Sony Open on the PGA Tour. He went on to win that event for one of his three victories on that Tour.
Kelly’s plan for Sunday is to “keep hitting fairways, keep hitting greens, make every putt you can possibly get and go to the next hole.” And he’ll probably be wearing a smile.
“Just go play and try and have some fun,” Kelly said. “It’s always a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason.”