Bradley returns to the beginning of his meteoric rise

By Jason SobelMay 15, 2012, 7:52 pm

IRVING, Texas – Even though he was still a wide-eyed PGA Tour freshman at this point last year, Keegan Bradley was already living a Rodney Dangerfield kind of life – and not the Al Czervik-in-plaid-pants version, either.

His photo was prominently displayed in the annual media guide … next to the bio of veteran player Michael Bradley. No relation.

He was often asked questions about all those great Bradley performances over the years … Pat Bradley, that is. His aunt.

And with a pair of top-10 finishes entering the Byron Nelson Championship, he was sought out by autograph hounds prior to the tournament … only to be asked his identity upon signing.

Talk about no respect.

Just a few days later, they’d find out all about him.


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Using Lord Byron’s tournament as his personal coming-out party, Bradley outlasted Ryan Palmer in a playoff to earn his first career victory, one that came as almost as much of a surprise to him as to those who had unknowingly collected his John Hancock.

“I was staying at the Hampton Inn down the street,” he recalled with a smile on Tuesday in advance of this year’s edition of the event. “I was just trying to keep my card.”

It’s been a whirlwind year for Bradley, undergoing a warp-speed metamorphosis from Nationwide Tour graduate to PGA Tour winner to major champion, claiming the last of those titles at the PGA Championship, just three months after his initial victory here.

It isn’t presumptuous to think that as part of that domino theory, the major victory never would have happened without first winning the Nelson.

“This tournament might have set up my whole career, to be honest with you,” Bradley said. “People don't realize what the stress level is of a rookie on the PGA Tour, trying to keep your card. I played on the Hooters Tour and thinking about going back is scary. And to know I was on the Tour for at least two-and-a-half more years was huge. 

“At the PGA, I didn't have that pressure of having to win my first tournament or having to worry about making enough money to keep my card – stuff like that, where rookies have to think about that, and this tournament cleared the way.”

It almost never happened.

Bradley had planned to play at Colonial the week before, and then take Nelson week off. Through a conscious bit of serendipity, his caddie talked him into changing his mind.

“It was done,” he explained. “I had made my decision, and Pepsi [Steven Hale], my caddie, said, ‘Look, I think you should play’ – he's never said anything like this to me in my career. He's supportive. And he said, ‘I think you should play Nelson and skip Colonial. Nelson fits your game better.’ And sure enough, we came here and won. Pepsi knew something I didn't, and thank God he convinced me to do it.”

Looking back on that week “fondly,” Bradley says there are still some pinch-me, let-it-sink-in moments when it comes to what’s happened in his career over the past year.

They usually occur when he’s at his Jupiter, Fla., home, relaxing in his room and watching TV – until the silvery glint of a certain trophy catches his eye.

“I will be sitting around and I will realize that I won the PGA and start laughing, by myself, like I can't believe it,” he intimated. “It seriously happens all the time. I keep the trophy on my mantle in front of my TV in my room, and I'll just be watching TV and I'll look over at it and start laughing, because it seems so bizarre, that's the Wanamaker Trophy – it's in my room! I definitely sometimes I have to ask myself, ‘Is this really real?’”

The answer is, yes. It’s really real.

The unassuming kid from the golf-rich Bradley family has reached the big-time. Still just 25 years old, his photo now corresponds with the proper media guide entry, he receives questions about more than his Aunt Pat and those who seek his autograph know his identity without having to ask.

He’s finally shed that Rodney Dangerfield label, earning plenty of respect in the process.

And he’s hardly done, either.

“It's cool to be living it,” Bradley claimed. “But I have so much further to go, and that's what I'm happy about. I want to be out here for a long time and be one of the best players, so I have a lot to work for.”

Respected and respectful. What a difference a year makes.

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.