WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - Less than two years ago, Troy Kelly was recovering from hip-replacement surgery.
Today, he'll be teeing it up in the final group at the Greenbrier Classic, seeking his first PGA Tour victory and by far his biggest pro paycheck.
Not a bad deal for the 33-year-old from Tacoma, Wash., and a former high school all-league basketball player.
Kelly begins the final round today in second place behind reigning U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, and their pairing presents a real dichotomy in golf spikes.
Simpson, after all, stands fifth in the World Golf Ranking, and Kelly 464th.
"It will be a different stage tomorrow,'' said Kelly, who fired an 8-under 62 Saturday at Old White TPC to match the tournament's best round of the week. "It will be a good experience for me, and we'll see what it feels like.''
Kelly is a virtual unknown on the PGA Tour, having survived the cut in only 10 of 33 previous tournaments and winning just over $121,000 for his career. Today, with his brother Ryan serving as his caddie, he takes aim at the Greenbrier Classic's top prize of $1.098 million.
"I played out here [on the PGA Tour] in 2009,'' Kelly said, "and I think I made three cuts out of 17 events. And I didn't play any event on the Nationwide, so I was just kind of thrown into the sharks, you know, and was not very comfortable obviously.
"But the last couple years out there have been good, and last year I got into contention sometimes and had some success.''
Undoubtedly, part of Kelly's problem in 2009 stemmed from his health. After limping through 10 events on the Nationwide Tour (now the Web.com Tour) in 2010, Kelly finally had his condition checked and required surgery to replace an arthritic hip in September of 2010.
"I just kept fighting through it for about two years,'' he said. "[In 2010], I was going through practice rounds and I would have to stop just because I couldn't walk. It got so bad that I finally went and had it looked at and found out what it was. It was essentially arthritis - it was just bone on bone.''
Kelly began his recovery slowly, because he knew it was going to take time. Seven months following surgery, he returned to tournament golf.
"It took probably about a year,'' he said, "to where all the muscle was actually strengthened back up where I could feel normal again.''