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Posted at 4:21 p.m., Thursday, January 10, 2002

Kelly, Parnevik early Sony Open leaders

By Doug Ferguson
AP Golf Writer

Jerry Kelly, a guy who has had problems finishing off tournaments, had no problem finishing off his first round of the new season.

On a windswept morning at Waialae Country Club, Kelly birdied his final three holes today for a 4-under-par 66, giving him a share of the early lead with Jesper Parnevik in the Sony Open.

Kelly and Parnevik both enjoy playing in the wind, so the first round was not too unsettling. Gusts were up to 25 mph, and only 22 of the 72 players with early tee times managed to break par.

Paul Tataurangi and Buy.com Tour graduate Jonathan Byrd each opened at 67, while the group at 68 included PGA champion David Toms, Mark O'Meara, Scott Hoch and Pat Perez, who won Q-school last month to earn his card.

The Sony Open is the first full-field event of the year. Among the late starters were Mercedes Championships winner Sergio Garcia, Davis Love III, Fred Couples, Tom Lehman and Boo Weekley, the homespun Q-school grad who plays in rain pants and tennis shoes.

Twenty-one of the 32 players in the winners-only Mercedes at Kapalua decided to spend an extra week in Hawaii, and got an extra dose of strong winds.

"You have to be pretty confident of your setup," Kelly said of the difficulties putting in the wind. "It's got to be tough on the rookies. They haven't seen this course yet."

Kelly shares one thing in common with the tour rookies — none of them have won.

He's had his chances. Kelly had a two-stroke lead over Tiger Woods in The Players Championship until tying for fourth, and he was poised to claim his first PGA Tour victory at the Reno-Tahoe Open until a triple bogey late in the final round, allowing John Cook to beat him by one stroke.

Now in his seventh full season on tour, Kelly believes this might be his year.

"I don't think there's anybody out there trying to win harder than I am," he said. "It just hasn't happened to me. It's all about being in the right position at the right time."

Parnevik finished at even par last week on Maui, and still hasn't worked out all the kinks in his game — especially the driving. He has switched to a driver that is 43 inches long, similar to what Woods and Garcia use.

Not that it helped Thursday. He snap-hooked his opening driver to make bogey and hit only seven of 14 fairways, but recovered by playing bogey-free the rest of the round.

Like Kelly, he finished strong with an 8-iron into 2 feet on the par-3 15th, a wedge from 165 yards in thick rough to 12 feet on No. 16 and then a pitch to 4 feet on the closing par 5 at Waialae.

"I usually enjoy the wind," Parnevik said. "I like hitting the different kind of shots."

Wind had nothing to do with his most bizarre shot of the round.

His drive landed against a tree on the 10th fairway, so he inverted his driver and played his next shot lefthanded out into the fairway. Parnevik pitched to 10 feet and saved par.

Kelly didn't exactly cruise home, despite his three straight birdies.

He hit into a fairway bunker off the tee on the 18th, then tried to play a 4-wood toward the green. The ball caught the lip of the bunker and barely got out, but Kelly atoned for that by hitting 6-iron from 203 yards that nearly hit the hole, stopping 4 feet away.

. . .

Divots: Garrett Willis, who finished last at the Mercedes with a four-day total of 304, carried that momentum into the Sony Open. He was 8 over through his first seven holes and finished with a 10-over 80. ... Gary Nicklaus returned to the Sony Open no longer a bachelor. The son of Jack Nicklaus got married over the holidays. He opened with a 69 ... Charles Howell III finished with two bogeys for a 2-over 72. ... Jeff Maggert went out in 2-under 33, then bogeyed the next six holes. He finished at 73.