Kelly swipes PGA lead from Els

Jerry Kelly aced the par-three fourth hole on his way to a four-under par 67 on Saturday to grab the lead at the US PGA Verizon Heritage after a tough day for Ernie Els.

Kelly, who trailed leader Els by three strokes when the day began, stood on 13-under par 200 after 54 holes at the $5,4-million event with fellow American Kevin Na and South African star Els one stroke back.

Els fired a par 71 in a roller-coaster round that opened with a double bogey but saw him fight back with birdies at three, eight and 10. Els followed a bogey at the 11th with a birdie at 13.

Els clung to the lead but bogeys at 16 and 17 dropped him back and it took a 15-foot birdie putt at the last hole just to move level with Na, who shot a 66.

“I’ve been doing this so many times,” said Els, a two-time winner of the US Open and a former British Open champion who hasn’t won on the US tour in nearly three years. “I need to get out of this rut.”

Kelly birdied the second hole and took a bogey at the third before his 200-yard hole-in-one sparked his spirits.

Kelly used a four-iron and aimed right, then watched as the ball faded toward the hole, landed and bounced into the cup.

“It doesn’t happen all that often where we hit perfect shots to make holes-in-one,” Kelly said. “That was as good as I could hit that shot.”

Although Kelly joked that he didn’t get too excited, since the ace didn’t come at the hole where a boat was on offer for a hole-in-one, it erased Els’ lead.

“It was a small, little dagger,” Els said.

Kelly followed with birdies at the fifth, seventh, ninth and 12th holes before giving back strokes at the 13th and 15th.

American Boo Weekley was fourth on 202 with Masters champion Zach Johnson, fellow Americans Sean O’Hair and Vaughn Taylor, Canadian Stephen Ames and Australian Stephen Leaney sharing fifth on 204.

If Sunday’s weather lives up to the stormy forecast, it may play a key role in deciding the winner.

“You’re going to need guts. Guts to pull off shots. Guts to win,” Kelly said. - Sapa-AFP

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