Published May 17, 2013
IRVING, Texas – Keegan Bradley found his clubs spread out on the floor and an open umbrella near his empty golf bag in the champions' locker room before teeing off at the Byron Nelson Championship.
Just another prank by his good friend Jason Dufner, the defending Nelson champion he played with Thursday along with Matt Kuchar.
"It felt like a Saturday morning round with my buddies," Bradley said. "It felt easy."
Bradley made it look that way, shooting an opening 10-under 60 for the TPC Four Seasons course record even with consecutive bogeys in the middle of his round. He led by three strokes over Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion who had a bogey-free 63.
"The hole looked huge," Bradley said. "Even the putts I missed almost went in. ... I felt like all I needed to do was get it on the green and I was going to make it. And to top that, I was hitting the ball close a lot."
But Bradley wasn't thinking about the possibility of a 59, or even a course record, after missing the fairway at No. 18 and making a bogey. He then started his second nine by driving into a bunker at No. 1 before his par putt there lipped the hole.
The two lost strokes put Bradley at 3 under before his longest made putt, a 17-foot birdie at the 221-yard second hole. There were birdies at Nos. 4 and 5, then an eagle 3 at the 542-yard seventh hole and a birdie at the eighth before his wedge shot from about 136 yards on his final hole.
"It was going right at it. (A 59) crossed my mind for a second, and it would be unbelievable if I buried this," Bradley said. "But I had 3 feet to shoot 60. I was actually very nervous, uncomfortable over it and thank God I made it."
That short birdie at the 428-yard ninth hole broke the TPC Four Seasons course record and matched the best round ever at the Nelson. He topped his career PGA Tour best by three strokes and equaled Phil Mickelson's opening 60 at Phoenix as the lowest round on the tour this season.
Arron Oberholser shot 60 in the second round of the 2006 Nelson on the Cottonwood Valley course across the street that used to be used the first two rounds. Sam Snead shot 60 in the 1957 tournament at Glen Lakes Country Club, which at the time tied the PGA Tour record.
Five players have since shot 59 in official PGA Tour events. Al Geiberger had the first in the 1977 Memphis Classic, while Paul Goydos and Stuart Appleby had the last three years ago. Ryo Ishikawa had the lowest round on a major tour, shooting a 12-under 58 on the Japan Tour in 2010.
Robert Karlsson, Harris English and Ted Potter Jr. had 64s, all playing morning rounds at the Nelson. Ryan Palmer, playing two days after the funeral of one of his best friends, was in another trio of players at 65, with two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Camilo Villegas.
Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old amateur from China, shot 70 in his second tournament since making the cut at the Masters. The eighth-grader also made the cut in New Orleans three weeks ago.
Guan was among 97 players at par or better — 76 were under par — on the 7,166-yard course after 1½ inches of rain fell on the course Wednesday night from a storm system that spawned at least 16 tornadoes and killed six people in North Texas. There was no significant damage to the course, where players were able to lift, clean and place balls in the fairways.
Palmer found out about Clay Aderholt's accident while at The Players Championship, where with a heavy heart and his friend's initials on his cap he tied for fifth.
"Trying to get back in the swing of things," said Palmer, who lives in nearby Colleyville. "Being at home is nice, my own bed, so that made it easier when I got back (from the funeral) Tuesday night."
Bradley, the nephew of LPGA Tour great Pat Bradley (31 victories with six majors), got his first PGA Tour victory in a one-hole playoff with Palmer at the Nelson as a tour rookie two years ago. Bradley had four consecutive top-10 finishes earlier this season, but missed the cuts in his last two tournaments.
"The course fits my eye really well and I feel comfortable out here," said Bradley, who finished tied for 24th last year even though he was only one stroke off his 2011 winning score of 3-under 277. "It's a lot of drivers, which I like, and I hit the ball in the fairway all day today, which is a bonus being able to touch the ball and having a good lie every time."