Published November 30, 2012
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Keegan Bradley has earned nearly $8 million in his two years on the PGA Tour, enough to buy his own hamburger joint.
But work in one?
Such was the advice of someone on Twitter who was trying to antagonize Bradley over his belly putter and the proposed rule that would ban the anchored stroke it requires starting in 2016. Bradley was the first player to win a major using the belly putter, so it makes him feel like a target.
And on Twitter, there are no boundaries for taste.
"I had a guy yesterday telling me to send my application in to Burger King for 2016," Bradley said.
It was funny. And so was the ribbing he took from a few of his peers, which prompted the former PGA champion to take Tiger Woods' conventional putter and, with a curious crowd suddenly very interested, make three out of four putts from 10 feet.
But it's also making Bradley more motivated than ever. He wants people to understand that he uses a putter that is still legal under the Rules of Golf at tournaments like the World Challenge, where he opened with a 69 and was two shots behind Nick Watney. And he wants people to understand that he's a pretty good player for a lot more reasons than jamming the end of a mid-length putter into his stomach.
Such was the case on a cool, overcast afternoon at Sherwood Country Club, when Bradley didn't make hardly anything and still was only two shots out of the lead. The other 13 clubs were working OK, for he hit every green until a bad break with his tee shot on the 18th, leading to his lone bogey.
"If I could have made a few more putts, I probably could have been a lot lower," said Bradley, who paused before adding, "I know people don't want to hear that."
Putting was all the rage one day after the U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club proposed a new rule — 14.1-b — that would prohibit players from anchoring a club against the body.
Watney attributed five birdies in his last 10 holes to his putting, including a 15-foot putt for his first birdie ever on the 14th hole. Tiger Woods, the tournament host and defending champion, made a half-dozen key putts for par that kept him in the game with a 70.
Steve Stricker made news with his putter, too. He changed from the putter he has used so long that even the metal tape on the bottom looks like it has been there his entire career. He decided to go with a different putter he bought at a golf store in Wisconsin.
"Mid-life crisis," Stricker said with a grin.
For Bradley, it's personal.
"I hope that people look at us for the accomplishments and the players that we are, not look at us for using an unconventional putter," Bradley said. "I feel like the USGA has really put an 'X' on our back and really shined a light on us, and I don't know if that's exactly fair. ... When we started putting with it, they were legal, and they still are. It's a sticky situation, and I hope people can see through that."
The World Challenge is not a hit-and-giggle at the end of the year, even with a short field, no cut and lots of holiday cash for all involved. The field is stronger than ever, with 13 players from the Ryder Cup, and it showed in the scores. On a cool, overcast day in the Conejo Valley, only eight shots separated the top (Watney) from Brandt Snedeker, bringing up the rear with a 75.
Snedeker drilled a fairway metal into 8 feet and made eagle on the 11th hole, only for his round to fall apart. He hit two provisional tee shots on the par-3 12th, didn't have to use them but still made bogey, and then he snap-hooked his next tee shot and made double bogey.
Bradley and a pair of past champions at this tournament — Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell — were two shots out of the lead at 69. Woods was in the group at 70 that included Bo Van Pelt, whom Woods beat this year at Congressional, and U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson.
But the buzz remained over the belly.
"I'm going to make a switch when I feel it's best for me," Bradley said. "And whether that's tomorrow or in three years, we'll see."
He made a temporary switch this week, only it was a joke.
Bradley heard enough teasing from his peers earlier this week that he grabbed Woods' putter.
"All of a sudden, I see everyone start to walk around and start to look," Bradley said. "I took his putter, which is about the opposite of what I putt with — it's upright, it's light, it's a blade — and I made three out of four putts from 10 feet. So I made sure to remind those guys every time I see them that I made those putts."
If only USGA executive director Mike Davis had been around, especially if Bradley had made a deal that Woods had to try his belly putter.
"You don't want to see Tiger putt with that putter," Bradley said. "If it was up to me, I'd film him and send that to Mike Davis, and I think he would take the ban off."
Woods laughed when asked about the story, saying he gives Bradley grief every day on just about any subject.
Woods supports the new rule, though he said it would be awkward for the next three years while the anchored stroke remains allowed. It is an addition to the Rules of Golf, which are only changed every four years. That's one reason why the transition period will be three years instead of one, for example.
Woods compared that with the square grooves in the Ping irons while those were being debated.
"At least they made a decision, and I think that's the positive way," Woods said. "Either direction they were going to go, whether they banned it or allowed it, make a decision about it. And they did that with obviously three years out."