COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The play of the day came from a kid who slid into the rough to grab an errant tee shot.
The comeback of the day came from the man who led by three, watched it all slip away, then steeled himself in time to climb back to the top.
Just another crazy afternoon at the hard-to-read Broadmoor, where Jerry Kelly shot 1-over 71 on Saturday to finish the third round of the U.S. Senior Open in the same spot he started — atop the leaderboard with a one-shot advantage.
“Did it unnerve me a little bit?” Kelly said about watching his lead disappear. “Yeah, absolutely.”
But he made a 6-foot slider to save par on No. 18, finish at 4-under 206 and preserve a one-shot lead over David Toms, who stayed far from the madness and shot a 66 to climb from a tie for 10th to second.
Behind Toms — nothing but chaos.
It began when Kelly took three putts to get down from inside of two feet on No. 12 — his first putt going airborne above the roughed-up poa annua turf and his second taking a 180-degree spin around the cup before bounding out.
Shortly after making double-bogey there, Kelly’s three-shot lead morphed into a one-shot deficit to his old college teammate, Tim Petrovic, who nearly holed out from the fairway on 14 for a birdie that briefly got him to 5-under.
But Petrovic’s lead didn’t last long. He bogeyed No. 15. Then, on No. 17, he blocked his tee shot right and it bounded down the cart path into the right rough where an amped-up kid couldn’t believe his luck — sprinting into the grass and going into a full baseball slide to grab the ball.
Chastened by the marshal, the kid gave the ball back. Petrovic took a drop and had to pitch out from behind the trees en route to another bogey.
“Next time, kick it that way,” he joked with the kid, pointing toward the fairway, and trying to lighten the mood.
“I didn’t want to make him feel like it was OK to do that, but it’s not the end of the world, either,” Petrovic said. “Only a major. No big deal. Same thing I said to my caddie after the round.”
Petrovic also bogeyed No. 18 and finished with a 71, tied with Kirk Triplett (68) two shots out of the lead.
Another shot back are Brandt Jobe (66), Paul Goydos (70) and Miguel Angel Jimenez (73), who came into the round one shot behind Kelly but didn’t sink a putt longer than 5 feet. His only birdie came on a chip-in from the side of the 15th green.
“It’s been a nightmare on the greens,” Jimenez said. “I think I need to have a tall glass of wine and relax.”
Instead of playing with Jimenez for a fourth straight day, Kelly will be paired Sunday with Toms, whose four-birdie, no-bogey round turned out to be more spectacular than routine, especially given what was going on behind him.
“I knew teeing off as late as I did, knowing how the golf course was playing, that I couldn’t be too far back with the way I was playing,” Toms said.
He is one of 12 players within five shots of the lead — a list that also includes Davis Love III (even), and Colin Montgomerie and Jay Haas (1 over).
Kelly’s problems on No. 12 illustrated the issues every player is having in figuring out the Broadmoor greens, where all putts break away from the shrine on Cheyenne Mountain — even the ones that appear to run uphill.
Kelly needed 35 putts to get through the round — tied for second-worst in the field — and hasn’t made a putt of longer than 12 feet over the first 54 holes. He three-putted three times Saturday.
“These greens are very difficult, very deceiving,” Kelly said. “I thought I hit a lot of great second putts on my three-putts.”
But his very best putt was that last one.
After leaving his approach just off the green in ankle high rough, he chipped to a range that has been anything but automatic for him or anyone else this week. The putt rolled in.
“In my head, all I was saying is, this is where you show people what’s coming,” Kelly said. “This is how you show people you’re strong enough to do this.”