Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Sunday, January 13, 2002

Leader can feel ‘the zone’
coming on

AS Jerry Kelly sat there, bathed in soft evening sunset light, serenaded by swooshing, gentle surf, relaxed, happy, satisfied, he looked like a man who was 14-under going into the final day at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

And with eyes sparkling and voice on the edge of wonder, he sounded like the man who just might be at the start of a streak.

Like a guy who has seen the beginning of a zone, like he's inches away, like he can almost feel it, and he already knows what it tastes like.

Even though David Toms and John Cook lurked last night, two back and hoping to pounce, and Jim Furyk was in the hunt, and three more were within striking distance, and everyone knows a golf tournament doesn't really start until the final holes of the final day.

Kelly knew that last night.

"I've got great putters behind me, so they're going to make putts," he said.

"I know it's going to be a horse race, they always are out here," he said.

"It's just golf tomorrow," he said.

But he said other things too, after scoring a birdie on 18 to give himself some breathing room. He talked like a guy for whom it could all just come together.

He's a changed man this season. He's a changed man today.

"I'm just feeling really, really good about the way I'm missing it. I know when I hit good shots, and I'm hitting them pretty close," he said.

He's not there yet, not even at 14-under, not even after a scorching 65 that gave him the lead.

But he will be.

He's finding his game. He's finding his peace.

"Since I've been working on my swing," he said.

"Since my swing has been out in front of me and my misses are going straighter, and I kinda can feel what my body's doing. So when I miss a shot, I know it. And when I know it, what I did, I can say, you know, that's fine."

Before he was in the dark. Before he'd hit a shot and say, What happened? How did I do that? If he were a millimeter off, it wouldn't work. And when the adrenaline got going, it could go anywhere, and he had no idea why.

Now he knows. Now he can feel it, and it feels good, the way good golf shots do. This year, this tournament, is a whole new day.

He's seen it happen to Toms, last year's PGA Championship winner. Toms, who he came up with. Toms, who challenges him today. Toms, who roared to life with a round that Furyk described, "The first six holes he looked like he was going to shoot 50-something (Saturday)."

Kelly has seen it happen to Toms, and so he knows it can happen to him.

"He got his swing going into a groove much sooner than me, and hopefully I'm just coming into that groove, that mentality," he said.

The groove is so good that his putting improved after watching a golf tips segment on TV.

Hope, it seems, for all of us.

Zones are possible. Kelly knows that now.

"I'm just waiting for it to happen," he said.

Kalani Simpson's column runs Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
He can be reached at

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