Published August 15, 2011
| Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA – When Sunday started, Keegan Bradley was of-Famer Pat Bradley's nephew.
After a winning a playoff at Atlanta Athletic Club, he is now PGA Champion Keegan Bradley.
That is a huge leap for a 25-year-old PGA Tour rookie. During the final round, the only hole that made him look like a rookie was the par-three 15th.
Bradley made a mess of that long par-three to tumble five strokes behind Jason Dufner, but he responded like a true champion would.
The Vermont native birdied three of the next four holes, including the first playoff hole, as Dufner stumbled down the stretch. Bradley birdied 16 and 17 in regulation, then parred 18 to end at minus-eight.
Dufner stumbled to three consecutive bogeys from the 15th to slide back to eight-under. He parred the 18th to set up the three-hole aggregate playoff.
In the extra session, Bradley birdied the first hole (No. 16) to grab the early lead. He parred the next two holes to hold off Dufner, who bogeyed the second extra hole, before making birdie on the third playoff hole to end one shot back.
The playoff was not without drama of course.
The pin on the 18th green was tucked in the back left corner of the green. Instead of taking the safe route to the middle of the putting surface, Bradley pulled his approach shot long and left of the stick.
And Dufner did the same thing as they both flew over the heart of the greenside pond to get to the green. After Dufner poured in his 20-footer for birdie, it was all up to Bradley.
One-putt and he wins by two. Two-putt and he wins by one. Three-jack? I think we all knew that wasn't happening. Bradley's birdie effort stopped inches from the cup, and he tapped in for par and the win.
Thinking back to his playoff win at the Byron Nelson earlier this year helped calm Bradley's nerves. However, he wasn't calm the entire extra session.
"I was just trying to stay upright honestly," Bradley said of his walk to the 18th green in the playoff. "I hit the shot on 18 and taking a sip out of my water bottle and my hand is literally shaking, violently. There was so much adrenaline, because the shot in on regulation, I thought it was short and it ended up getting there."
Bradley's approach to 18 in regulation was on an equally daunting line. He came up short, left of the pin with that shot, but it was much closer to the water's edge than his second shot in the playoff was.
Isn't that what we want in our champions? That go-for-broke mantra.
Who gives us more than that than Phil Mickelson? Lefty, it turns out, had plenty to do with Bradley picking up the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday.
"Phil and Camilo [Villegas] gave me some advice that only players can. Phil has been great to me. He's just told me to stay more patient out there," Bradley explained. "The major thing I tried to do this week was under-react to everything whether it was a good thing or a terrible thing.
"And if you watch Phil play, he gets excited, but he never gets too down on himself, and that was the key."
It was Bradley's own mind that was weighing on him.
"One of the things that's been on my mind a lot is [that] it was important to me to win Rookie of the Year, and that's something that was hurting me out there, thinking about it," he admitted.
Bradley might have other things to get him nervous as the FedExCup playoffs start in two weeks. He joined Nick Watney, Steve Stricker, Bubba Watson and Mark Wilson as the only two-time winners this season and soared to fifth on the PGA Tour money list.
Bradley is not only in the running -- some might say leading -- for the Rookie of the Year award, but he is also in contention now for Player of the Year.
Could he get it at this point? Not likely. But say he wins the Tour Championship, which could give him the money title. A win in any playoff event would give him a chance to top the money list as a rookie, and that would give him plenty of votes for Player of the Year.
But, for now, he is just Keegan Bradley, PGA Champion, and nephew of Hall-of- Famer Pat Bradley. And that is more than good enough.
THE TIGER CONUNDRUM
He found the positive in that he was able to play two straight weeks and was pain free. Woods, of course, added that he needs more reps with the swing that he and coach, Sean Foley, are working on.
The question I have is, where will those reps occur? When Tiger talks reps, he means tournament reps of course.
He has stated his next tournament will not be until November, when he plays that Australian Open.
My response to Tiger's schedule? Why wait so long? God forbid he plays a Fall Series event on the PGA Tour! If that is too far below him...Hey Tiger, there is a pretty good golf tour in Europe, you know?
Granted, the European Tour isn't in the middle of a murder's row of top notch tournaments, but why not kick the rust off of your game once or twice?
If I were his schedule maker, I'd tell Woods to play the European Masters (Sept. 1-4), take three weeks off, then play the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (Sept. 29-Oct. 2).
That gives him two more tournaments before the Aussie Open, and possibly the Presidents Cup. Fred Couples, the U.S. team captain, said he would likely take Woods with a captains pick.
I know several experts that think that is the wrong pick. And it's hard to argue it is the right choice. If he doesn't get his reps in and isn't in top tournament shape, why would you take him?
No one honestly knows where Woods will go from here. I understand he needs time with his kids as a divorced father, but adding tournaments wouldn't be the worst thing for him.
The needle on the TV ratings moves when he tees it up. If he continues to struggle, here's hoping Keegan Bradley wins the Masters next year and starts to move the needle himself.
Until then, it's your move Tiger. Let's hope that move is up the leaderboard on a Sunday afternoon -- sooner, rather than later.
- Mike Small, who is a three-time PGA Professional National Championship winner, continued to show he is one of the best PGA Club Professionals out there. Small, the head golf coach at the University of Illinois, made the cut for the third time in seven tries at the PGA Championship.
- Sure, all the big names weren't there, but it was good to see that 15 of the top-25 finishers on the PGA Championship leaderboard were Americans.