Three old friends prepare for a major

Steve Stricker, Jerry Kelly and Scott 40s who played their practice rounds together this week.

These same three golfers also happen to be one, two and three on the leaderboard, with Wisconsin native No. 1 Stricker in first with a major- record-tying 63, fellow cheesehead Kelly in second and honorary Packer fan and Oklahoma resident Verplank tied for third.

Think they figured something out during the week?

"We saw that you really didn't need to overpower this golf course, that position was the key," Kelly said after his 65 on Thursday. "It certainly helped me. I know it helped those two guys, as well. We made a lot of birdies the last two days. We're not natural long hitters."

It showed in round one, but there's clearly a long way to go, a fact all three know.

The bond these three men share is not limited to a few practice rounds in Atlanta.

While Stricker has distanced himself from the others in accomplishment, all have been quality veteran tour grinders with multiple wins and appearances on American teams.

They're also three golfers who've endured.

Stricker's game all but abandoned him earlier this century. His game was in such bad shape that when he finally started playing well again, his peers voted him as the Comeback Player of the Year two years in a row.

Verplank suffers from Type 1 diabetes and wears an insulin pump on the course.

Kelly has battled injuries and inconsistency, but nothing at the level of the other two.

Another thing these gentlemen share in common is an unflappable niceness that showed in post-round interviews where they fell over themselves gushing about the others.

"If I had money to wager, I was going to put some money on him (Kelly) to win the tournament," Stricker said. "He hit it great. It was nice to see him continue his form from the practice rounds into the tournament."

"There's not much left for Steve Stricker to do," said Kelly. "Everybody still considers it only a matter of time. I think he's been plagued by tough starts, a couple of bad waves, things like that."

Now there's the remainder of the tournament to play. How it'll play out, you'll have to wait until Sunday to find out, but it would be something if these three middle-agers could find their way into a battle for that elusive first major.

"Love to have the three guys that are up there right now playing," Kelly said. "I guess there would have to be a rain delay, though, wouldn't it? We don't want that."

We certainly don't want that, but it would be fun to watch three 40-somethings duke it out for the last major of the year. It'd be especially rewarding considering the ages of the some of the players ranked above these guys.

This trio probably has socks older than some of these whipper-snappers on tour, but for one day, these old guys showed the kids how it's done.