Monday, August 15, 2011

The Brilliance of Mr. Bradley

Back in early January of this year, I found myself in Palm Springs for a golf fitting with the fine folks at TaylorMade. I was getting put through the ringer, but the good news was I was finally going to have some clubs that were perfect for me, and it was Bob Hope week, which meant a lot of friends were in town. One was a LPGA pal of mine, and I headed up to the Beer Hunter on Tuesday night to see her and hang out. Little did I know when I arrived, that two rookies on the PGA Tour would be at the table hanging out. One I had heard of. His name was Jamie Lovemark and he was the proverbial big shot of the rookie class. He had swagger, and was already going through the motions of a big time athlete. You could tell he knew he was important, even before he really was important, and he figured that a win would come any day now.

The other rookie was much quieter. He sat in the corner drinking his water and laughing at the group, answering my random questions about professional golf on the elite level.

The kid was Keegan Bradley, and later that week, he'd finish tied for 7th at the Bob Hope, his first top-10 on the PGA Tour but obviously a telling sign for what was to come in 2011.

On Sunday at the Atlanta Athletic Club, it seemed Keegan had finally sunk his chances when the blade of his wedge caught just a little too much ball on the 15th hole, and sent his Srixon into a watery grave. He would go on to make a triple-bogey on the hole, and all that work he'd done for the first 14 holes on Sunday looked lost. Just a week prior, Bradley had shot a gut-wrenching 41 on the final nine holes at the Bridgestone Invitational to fall down the leaderboard, and while he'd held it together this Sunday, it seemed this was the breaking point.

But there are moments champions fall on the mat and accept defeat, and other times when the eventual winner pops right back up and realizes he ain't losing this fight. That was Keegan.

As a fan of the Boston Red Sox, it seems appropriate that he'd win his first major championship in that fashion. A team that went decades without a World Series were on the mat back in 2004 in the ALCS, but got up, and won four straight games to advance to the Fall Classic. Bradley's triple-bogey left him looking at a nearly impossible comeback, but in golf, nothing's impossible.

You know the rest from there. Keegan makes birdie on 16, 17 and a fantastic two-putt on the 18th to post 8-under, and wait for Jason Dufner to fall back to him. Then in the playoff he makes a beautiful birdie on the first playoff hole and then just two pars in to win the Wanamaker Trophy. It was his second win of the year, but an important one for golf.

All the time we're talking about the next American to be great. We wonder when Rickie Fowler is going to wake up and win, or when Anthony Kim is going to get his head out of his butt and start being as great as he should. But we forget that there are a ton of talented players in this game that have the ability to kill it for a week straight and shock the world.

At the Beer Hunter in January, I had absolutely no idea I was sitting at the table with a future major champion, but I did know something; this Bradley kid was the silent one in the group, and we all know that sometimes the silent ones are the kids you have to watch.

I clapped on Sunday when the final putt dropped, knowing a deserving rookie won the biggest tournament of his life. I hope you did the same.

Getty Images


J.R. Clark said...

Shane, it was a fascinating tournament to watch. It would have been even better if CBS's announcers had the sense enough to BE QUIET and let the picture tell the story. Congratulations to Bradley for a remarkable comeback and victory.

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