Golf: Kelly Kraft

Kelly Kraft credits putting for 6-under round

May, 26, 2012
FORT WORTH, Texas -- A hot putter made all the difference for Kelly Kraft in his 6-under 64 on Saturday at Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

The rookie professional moved to 4-under and jumped into a tie for 13th at the completion of his round.

Kraft’s total number of made putts in the third round covered a distance of 161 feet. Compare that to 78 feet in Round 1 or 60 feet in Round 2.

He finished with an eagle and four birdies to shoot a tidy 6-under 29 on the front nine, just one stroke off the Colonial record set by Wayne Levi in 1993.

“I didn’t even realize it was a 29,’’ Kraft said after his round. “I guess I was thinking it was a par 36.’’

The SMU product played the second nine in even par with two birdies and two bogeys.

“It was a lot of fun,’’ said the 23-year-old native of Denton, Texas. “I didn’t make any putting changes. I’ve been hitting good putts. A lot were lipping out the first two rounds. I just kept doing what I was doing.''

Kraft made birdie putts at No. 4 (35 feet), No. 5 (20 feet), No. 6 (3 feet), No. 8 (14 feet), No. 13 (14 feet) and No. 18 (6 feet). But his longest make of the day, 42 feet, was for par at No. 10.

Kelly Kraft off to scorching Saturday start

May, 26, 2012
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Kelly Kraft, the 2011 U.S. Amateur champion, is off to a red-hot start in the third round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

Kraft, from Denton, Texas, is 6-under through eight holes.

Following an eagle at the par-5 first hole when he holed out of a greenside bunker, Kraft sank birdie putts at No. 4 (35 feet), No. 5 (20 feet), No. 6 (3 feet) and No. 8 (14 feet) to go 4-under overall, currently in a tie for eighth.

The 23-year-old Kraft, who played college golf at SMU, turned professional after competing in the Masters in April, thus forfeiting invitations to the U.S. Open and British Open this summer. He began his third round at 2-over after a pair of 71s.

Kelly Kraft makes cut with putt on final hole

April, 6, 2012
Kelly Kraft knew the situation.

As he walked up to the 18th green at Augusta National Golf Club on Friday afternoon, he looked at the giant scoreboard and saw that the leaders were at 5-under par.

“That meant 5-over was going to make the cut,” Kraft said. “I needed to make that putt to play the weekend.”

It was an 8-foot, downhill left-to-right putt for bogey that would put Kraft right on the number to keep playing Saturday and Sunday.

“It was a do-or-die situation,” said Kraft, last year’s U.S. Amateur Champion and former SMU golfer. “It was a fast putt. If I missed it, my Masters was over. If I make it, I play the weekend. I hit it a little firm and it went in. Everybody knew what was going on. That putt went in and the whole place went crazy. It was cool.”

Kraft was the final player to get into the clubhouse on the cut number, so he will be first off Saturday morning. And since an odd number of golfers made the cut, Kraft is paired with a marker. The good news for Kraft: He’s already played a round at Augusta National with the marker, Jeff Knox.

“It will be fun to play with him,” Kraft said. “He’s a good guy. We’ll have a good time. We’ll get the best greens on the course. They’ll be perfect.

“It will be nice to go out and free-wheel it and let it all out. I’ve got nothing to lose. I’ve got two rounds left as an amateur and I’m going to try to go out with bang.”

For Kraft, it’s already been an unforgettable Masters.

“It was good for me to be under the gun like that and make the cut,” Kraft said. “I think that’s going to help me in the future, making that putt. I’ll always remember that.”

Kelly Kraft savoring Masters experience

April, 5, 2012
Denton's Kelly Kraft, the reigning U.S. Amateur Champion who played golf at SMU, is enjoying every minute of his Masters experience.

Local product Kelly Kraft calls into GAC to talk about his experience playing in Masters for the first time in his career. Kelly says his goal is to go for the win, not just make the cut.

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Kraft played a few rounds at Augusta National the last few months after his U.S. Amateur victory last summer put him in the field. He arrived last Friday and wanted to take in as much of the course and tournament as he could. He watched as the traditional tee shots to open the Masters were hit by some of the greats, including Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus. Kraft is staying at the Crow's Nest, a tradition for amateurs. The four-bed room apartment of sorts is in the Augusta National clubhouse.

"I can walk downstairs to the green and right out onto the course," Kraft said. "A lot of great players have stayed up there. You can take in the whole deal. It's a great experience."

Kraft said there are four small rooms with twin beds and a common area with a TV. He only has one roommate -- amateur Patrick Cantlay. Kraft beat Cantlay in the finals to win the U.S. Amateur.

Kraft is paired with defending champion Charl Schwartzel and PGA Champion (and Nelson winner) Keegan Bradley for the first two rounds. And the entire group held its own in the first round. Bradley was 1-under, Schwartzel finished even and Kraft was at 2-over par.

Kraft managed to make four straight birdies during his opening round, doing so at Nos. 12 through 15. That's pretty impressive, considering that's part of Amen Corner. In fact, Kraft went 2-under through Amen Corner -- Nos. 11-13 -- but dropped a shot at holes 17 and 18 to end up over par.

"I'll take 2-under at Amen Corner any day," Kraft said. "I would have liked to have played better on those last holes."

Kraft played in front of Tiger Woods' group Thursday and saw firsthand all the patrons surrounding the most famous golfer on the course.

"He would make a long putt or a good shot and they would go crazy," Kraft said.

His goal remains what it was when the week started: Make the cut and see what happens on the weekend. He tees off at 12:31 central time Friday.

Coach happy to see pupil's work rewarded

August, 29, 2011
Pat O'Brien rushed up to Erin, Wisconsin this weekend to make sure he was in attendance to see his student, Kelly Kraft, win the biggest tournament of his life.

O'Brien watched every hole as Kraft gutted out an impressive victory over Patrick Cantlay, the No. 1 amateur in the world. It was an up-and-down emotional roller coaster for O'Brien as Kraft took a lead, watched Cantlay come back and then battled back himself down the stretch to win it. That's what makes the 36-hole match play final so fun. So why was Kraft, a relative unknown before a hot streak this summer, able to do it?

"He's learned how to slow things down and not get ahead of himself," said O'Brien, who teaches out of Lakewood Country Club in Dallas. "He learned how to win and stay in the present this summer. He figured it out. I'm not surprised to see him win this, honestly, the way he's been playing."

O'Brien is known as a short game guru, working with PGA Tour professionals like 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson, 2009 British Open champ Stewart Cink, John Senden, Vaughn Taylor and others. But his work with those guys is mainly putting. With Kraft, it's the whole game.

"That's what I'd like to do more of," O'Brien said. "Kelly has worked hard and really started finishing tournaments off. We saw that at the Texas Amateur and the Trans-Miss this summer. He kept it going here."

O'Brien says Kraft has always been confident, but he was thinking too much sometimes and speeding himself up when in contention. That changed a few months ago.

"He's so calm at times," O'Brien said. "He doesn't get rattled. He has stayed within himself tremendously and has had consistent swing mechanics. He's just letting it go and not really having to think much about it and it's fun to watch."

Kelly Kraft, Jordan Spieth join Walker Cup roster

August, 28, 2011
Fresh off his 2-up victory in the U.S. Amateur, Denton's Kelly Kraft was added to the U.S. Walker Cup team Sunday.

Joining the former SMU star is Dallas' Jordan Spieth.

The 2011 Walker Cup Match will be played Sept. 10-11 at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Former SMU golfer Kelly Kraft wins U.S. Am

August, 28, 2011
Denton's Kelly Kraft hung on for a 2-up victory at the U.S. Amateur final Sunday at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis.

Kraft, who just finished his senior season at SMU, took the lead after UCLA star and No. 1-ranked amateur Patrick Cantlay bogeyed No. 16.

Both will receive a spot next year's U.S. Open, and U.S. Amateur finalists traditionally are invited to The Masters. Kraft also earns a spot in the British Open with the win.

Former SMU golfer in U.S. Am Finals

August, 27, 2011
Denton's Kelly Kraft planned on turning professional after the U.S. Amateur Championship or maybe the Walker Cup later this year, if he's selected.

Why? Because the former SMU golfer's 3 & 2 win over Englishman Jack Senior in Saturday's semifinals means he has an invitation to the Masters and U.S. Open in 2012, provided he's still an amateur.

"Now I have to think about it," Kraft said. "That's pretty special to get a chance to play in the Masters. I didn't think I'd be playing in it this early. I went to the practice rounds in high school with my dad and thought it was awesome and wanted to play there. That's pretty special."

First, Kraft wants to see if he can notch the biggest win of his young golfing career with a win over well-known amateur Patrick Cantalay in the 36-hole final on Sunday. Kraft certainly wasn't the most well-known local name to take part in the U.S. Amateur. That title belonged to 18-year-old Jordan Spieth, who lost to Senior in the quarterfinals on Friday. Spieth's loss prevented an all-Dallas area semifinal. But Kraft is keeping hope alive for a local to win the championship. He's trying to become the second SMU golfer to do so in the last four years as Colt Knost won it in 2007.

Kraft didn't come into the championship with much fanfare, but he did come in red-hot. He won the Texas Amateur Championship earlier this summer and then the Trans-Miss Amateur Championship a few weeks later. He's carried over the momentum into this championship, making critical putts and winning some close matches, too. He needed 23 holes to get himself into the quarterfinals and used it as a springboard to win two more matches to get into the finals.

"I putted really well today," Kraft said. "I didn't really give him anytihng. I made the par putts I needed to make. He had to make birdies to beat me."

Kraft's more important putt was a 10-foot par save on the par-3 13th hole. Senior had made a nice chip and Kraft had conceded the putt. So with a 2-up lead, he needed to roll his putt in to make sure Senior didn't inch closer. Kraft pumped his fist as the ball went into the hole.

"That was big for me," Kraft said.

He went to the par-5 14th and made eagle to take a 3-up lead and eventually closed the match out on 16.

Kraft will now play Cantalay, who is on the USA Walker Cup Team as a sophomore at UCLA. He was the 2011 Jack Nicklaus Award winner (top collegiate golfer) and carded a 60 at the PGA Tour's Travelers Championship earlier this season. Cantalay is ranked as the top amateur in the world right now.

"I'm really excited to face him," Kraft said. "I'm playing well right now and I'm looking forward to having a good match. He won't be easy to beat, but I've been making putts and making birdies all week."

Kraft said one key will be to keep himself hydrated through 36 holes, something he's been conscious of while playing all week in Wisconsin.

Kelly Kraft ready for semifinal challenge

August, 26, 2011
It has been a good summer for former SMU golfer Kelly Kraft. The 22-year-old won the Texas Amateur Championship in Austin and won the Trans-Miss Championship in Kansas as well.

Now, he's in the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur Championship. Kraft defeated Patrick Rodgers easily, winning 6 & 4. But he sure had to work in his morning match just to face Rodgers. Kraft led the entire match against Blake Biddle, but lost the final hole as Biddle sent it to extra holes. On the fifth playoff hole, Kraft said he got up-and-down from 90 yards for par for the win.

"He was a bulldog," Kraft said. "He wasn't giving me anything and I wasn't giving him anything. We kept making putts and matching each other. It was good to get that win."

Kraft then went out and played well from the start against Rodgers, taking an early lead and pouring it on to end the match early. He feels confident thanks to his solid summer.

"I feel like I'm playing well," Kraft said. "I came in feeling that way and I'm just going to continue to play."

Kraft's opponent on Saturday is 23-year-old Jack Senior of England. He is a 2011 Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup golfer who defeated Dallas' Jordan Spieth in the quarterfinals. Senior won on the final hole.

A Dallas area semifinal at U.S. Amateur?

August, 26, 2011
The quarterfinals are going on right now at the U.S. Amateur Championship and depending on how things go, we could have two Dallas area golfers facing off in the semifinals on Satuday morning.

Dallas' Jordan Spieth advanced to the quarterfinal with a 7 & 5 win this morning and is currently playing Jack Senior from England in the quarterfinals. Denton's Kelly Kraft, who played golf at SMU and went to Denton Ryan, needed 23 holes to get past Blake Biddle from Illinois. Kraft just began his quarterfinal against Patrick Rodgers of Indiana.

If Spieth and Kraft win, they will play each other at 8:15 a.m. tomorrow at Erin Hills in Wisconsin. We'll update you when both players have completed their quarterfinal matches.