Blake leads hard-luck Kelly, two others by one stroke

MILWAUKEE -- Jerry Kelly's day was tougher than most at the Greater Milwaukee Open.

Kelly had to use a replacement putter for his final 10 holes Friday, but he shot a 3-under 67 on a rainy, windy day at Brown Deer Park. That left him within a stroke of Jay Don Blake, the leader at the halfway point.

Brett Quigley (67) and Patrick Sheehan (65) also were a shot behind Blake, the first-round leader who carded a 68 in the morning to stand at 8 under for the tournament at 132. Later, a rain delay of 1 hour, 38 minutes, softened the greens.

Seven golfers -- including 2001 winner Shigeki Maruyama -- were at 135.

The rain delay proved hectic for Kelly, who grabbed his putter nine minutes before the restart and watched in shock as the head spun off.

"I don't know what happened," he said. "I'm walking to the practice greens getting ready to practice and the next thing I know the thing is turning in my hands."

Rather than risk the epoxy not drying in time, Kelly sprinted to his truck in the parking lot and grabbed a spare, which he accidentally left in his truck after taking it to the Western Open last week.

"I was going to take it out of my bag when I got to Madison. I forgot. It ends up coming with me to Milwaukee," Kelly said. "That was pure luck right there.

"So, very unlucky but fortunate that I had a backup because it's a teardrop, it's a roll-face, you're not going to find one of those anywhere."

Not only that, but a marshal accidentally stepped on his driver head, Kelly said. He was so flustered he couldn't remember whether it happened before or after his fiasco with the putter.

After finding a rules official to make sure he wasn't in violation, Kelly took eight practice putts, then used the replacement putter the rest of the round.

He said he didn't think he missed any putts because of the new club.

"I putted well with it," Kelly said. "But I'm looking forward to rebuilding my other one."

He's also looking forward to resuming his quest to win his home state tournament. He came close in 1996, when he lost to Loren Roberts in a playoff. No Wisconsin native has won the GMO.

Blake, seeking his first PGA Tour victory in 12 years, had to deal with tricky winds in his round.

"The winds were blowing the ball all over the place," he said.

Blake was one of only 43 golfers among the field of 131 who had finished their rounds when the downpour struck, sending golfers and galleries scurrying for cover with the GMO's first rain delay in 16 years.

Blake started the day with a one-stroke lead over Kirk Triplett (74) and birdied his first hole. But another low round wasn't in the offing as he was forced to play conservatively because of 15-25 mph winds that gusted to 30 and brought sprinkles before the long rain delay.

Blake had but one regret: a three-putt on his final hole, the par-5 18th.

"It was a little frustrating to end the round that way after playing pretty solid all day long," he said.

Still, he wasn't complaining about being atop the leaderboard going into the weekend, especially given the conditions, which made club selection difficult.

Kelly said he was just glad for dumb luck. Not only did he have a spare putter but he was on the ninth green, near the parking lot, when the rains hit.

"I really didn't think I was going to putt well. It didn't look good," Kelly said. "But I've been stroking so well this week, I've got such good rhythm and good technique right now that all I had to do was set that thing right where I wanted it to.

"So, I know that stroke is working."

Chip Beck had a hole-in-one on the 215-yard seventh hole, the toughest par-3 on the course because of the narrow green bunkered on three sides. ... Maruyama eagled the 18th to finish with a 69. He has been under par in all 10 of his rounds at the GMO. ... Heath Slocum (63) was in position to challenge the course
record of 61 before a bogey on his next-to-last hole.