Published November 20, 2014
Most pro golfers played their college golf in the southern or western part of the United States. Not many played north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Keegan Bradley is one of those few. He played collegiately at St. John's and has probably played more rounds at Bethpage Black than anyone in the field this week at The Barclays.
"I remember vividly the first time I got to come play here. The superintendent Craig Currier used to allow us to come up and play on Mondays when the course was closed," Bradley recalled on Wednesday about his college days. "We'd pull up and park at his superintendent's house, and we'd start on the third hole and play, because there was nobody out here, so we could play, us all in one group, seven, eight guys, and just having such fun little matches and basically having Bethpage Black to ourselves."
To a non-golfer, that wouldn't mean much. But to a college kid, it was heaven.
Bradley honed his skills on one of the best public courses this country has to offer. Yet, it was the one time he was unable to play Bethpage that has helped drive him the last few years.
"I really wanted to make (the 2009) U.S. Open. It was my first year as a pro and I bogeyed the last two holes of the second stage (qualifier) to miss by one, and I was devastated," Bradley said.
Having missed out on the championship, Bradley returned to Bethpage this week for the first time since 2008, when he competed there in the New York State Open.
The course will have a U.S. Open feel to it as course officials have left the fairways at the narrow width in which they were cut for the 2009 U.S. Open.
"The course is playing very difficult. The rough is up. I can't imagine this is that far off of a U.S. Open," Bradley said about the setup. "This course is softer than an Open, but the rough is high, and I think any round you shoot under par at Bethpage Black is a great score."
Bradley returns to the Black with his confidence as high as it has been. He earned his first World Golf Championship win three weeks ago, then tied for third in his title defense at the PGA Championship.
Having narrowly missed out on the Presidents Cup team last year, Bradley has already secured his spot on this year's U.S. Ryder Cup squad and ranks eighth on the FedExCup points list.
"I feel like I'm in a great spot for the FedExCup. I came in this time of year in a good spot and just wasn't quite prepared after I won the PGA for what was coming. This is going to be a much better time for me this go-around," Bradley stated. "I love Bethpage. It's my favorite course in the world."
As far as Bradley is concerned, there is no better place for him to earn his fourth PGA Tour title.
COLSAERTS GUNNING FOR RYDER CUP SQUAD
The European Ryder Cup team will be finalized on Sunday and Nicolas Colsaerts is one of the few players in the mix to make the team.
Nine of the 10 spots on the team are locked in, and it seems Ian Poulter has all but been told he will be taken with one of captain Jose Maria Olazabal's two picks.
Colsaerts is the other likely candidate to be chosen, and he showed off in front of one of the team leaders on Thursday.
The Volvo Match Play champion carded a 3-under 69 while paired with Thomas Bjorn, who is the defending champion this week at the Johnnie Walker Championship and was recently tabbed as one of Olazabal's assistant captains.
Outside of his match play win, Colsaerts has eight worldwide top-10 finishes this year. For the most part though, he has struggled in the biggest events.
He didn't qualify for the Masters, then shared 27th at the U.S. Open, which was the first time in his career that he made the cut in a major.
Colsaerts followed that with a tie for seventh at the British Open before he missed the cut at the PGA Championship.
He played the first three World Golf Championships events this year, but finished no better than tied for 33rd, which was a first-round loss at the Accenture Match Play Championship.
Despite the somewhat inconsistent season, Colsaerts is a logical choice for the European Ryder Cup team. And if he keeps playing well in front of one of the team's assistant captains, that choice becomes more and more likely.
* How far have the once mighty have fallen? All four major champions from 2009 -- Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink and Y.E. Yang -- failed to qualify for this year's FedExCup Playoffs. Glover won his U.S. Open title that year at this week's host venue, Bethpage's Black Course.
* Padraig Harrington has an outside chance at grabbing one of Olazabal's captains picks for the Ryder Cup. A lot needs to happen for that to occur. First, Colsaerts would have to pass Martin Kaymer for the final automatic qualifying spot, and Harrington would have to have a big week at The Barclays. He is doing his part as he opened with a 7-under 64 to grab the early lead.
* Tiger Woods needs a solo ninth-place finish or better this week to crack the $100 million mark in PGA Tour career earnings.