Bradley isn't intimidated when playing with Woods

By John FeinsteinAugust 9, 2012, 8:57 pm

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – It seems as if Keegan Bradley is asked the same questions almost everywhere he goes.

“You got a text from Tom Brady?”

“You threw out a first pitch at Fenway?”

“You played golf with Michael Jordan?”

“You played your college golf at ST. JOHN’S?”

“What in the world is someone as young as you doing with a long putter?”

The questions are understandable in light of what has happened to Bradley in the 12 months since he caught Jason Dufner from behind on Sunday at the Atlanta Athletic Club, then beat him in a playoff to win the PGA Championship.

Bradley was 25, a PGA Tour rookie who might have believed at the time that his full name was “Keegan Bradley, nephew of Hall of Famer Pat Bradley.”

It may not be very long before the Hall of Famer finds herself being introduced as “Keegan Bradley’s aunt.”

Clearly, the nephew isn’t a one-time wonder. Perhaps the question he should have been asked after he shot a 4-under-par 68 in the opening round of his title defense at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course on Thursday is this: Just how good do you think you can be?

The answer would be VERY good.

It isn’t just that Bradley almost won at Riviera earlier this year, beaten by Bill Haas in a three-man playoff (Phil Mickelson was along for the ride) when Haas made a putt across the 10th green that started in Orange County and dropped into the hole after a change of area codes. It isn’t that being slighted by Fred Couples when Couples opted for Tiger Woods and Haas as his captain’s picks for the Presidents Cup team a year ago clearly motivated him to nail down a Ryder Cup spot this year. It isn’t even that he came from behind (again) last Sunday to catch Jim Furyk and win at Firestone.

It’s the look. Bradley has it. Even though he comes across in person as a 26-year-old who is still wide-eyed by all that’s gone on: “I mean, I got a note from Bill Belichick – wow, he’s always been a hero of mine,” – he certainly isn’t wide-eyed or overwhelmed when he steps inside the ropes.

Thursday he found himself on the 10th tee at 8:30 a.m. looking Tiger Woods right in the eye. Martin Kaymer, the 2010 PGA champion was also there but he might as well have pulled up a chair and watched. It would have been a lot easier than taking a long walk on a hot day en route to 79.

At least Kaymer had a front-row seat for the Bradley-Woods matchup. Make no mistake, as much as Woods loves going head to head with anyone who cares to challenge him, Bradley isn’t the least bit intimidated by him or by anyone in the game. In fact, he clearly reveled in the moment. He started out birdie-eagle and, even though he stumbled twice with three putts (one from off the green) he was clearly in his element all day.

He was practically gushing after he signed his scorecard. Speaking to the media outside the scoring area he used the word “great,” six times in five minutes and threw in an “amazing,” just for good measure. But it was one five-word sentence that was most telling: “I love playing with Tiger.”

There was a time in golf when playing with Woods was a golf death sentence. For most of 12 years, starting with the fateful Friday evening in 1997 when Colin Montgomerie declared his experience would be an advantage for playing with the 21-year-old Woods during the third round of the Masters, almost every player in golf would have taken 18 trips to the dentist over 18 holes with Woods – especially in a major championship. The day after Montgomerie’s comment he shot 74 – only nine shots more than Woods.

That sort of margin was the norm for a long time. That was then this is now.

Bradley doesn’t fear Woods, or anyone else in the game. He believes his best is as good as anyone else’s best and he knows that he can play in the heat, whether it is 90 degrees, humid and windless as it was Thursday morning or if it's Sunday afternoon at a major championship.

Or in the Ryder Cup. Bradley is much too polite to tell people what he really thinks about Couples’ decision to choose Haas over him last fall. Couples was going to take Woods because, regardless of how poor his year had been, he is still Tiger Woods and has the TV ratings to prove it. But the choice of Haas over Bradley came down to simple golf politics: The Presidents Cup is run by the PGA Tour. Haas won the biggest event the Tour has to offer: The Tour Championship and, thus, the FedEx Cup. If you offered any player on Tour five FedEx Cups or one major, they would take the major. Bradley won a major – but it was a major put on by the PGA of America.

Bradley might have fared better if Davis Love III needed to consider him for a captain’s pick on this year's Ryder Cup team since both the Ryder Cup and the PGA are run by the PGA of America. But he didn’t want to leave it up to anyone. That’s why the victory at Firestone, which locked up his spot on the team, was so important.

He came to Kiawah brimming with confidence and good cheer, although to be fair, he shows up almost everywhere brimming with good cheer. The chances that he defends his title are slim. Since Curtis Strange won a second straight U.S. Open in 1989, Woods had won majors in back-to-back years four times (Masters 2001-02; British Open 2005-06 and the PGA in 1999-2000, 2006-2007).

Among mortals here is the list of players who have accomplished that feat in the last 23 years: Padraig Harrington – British Open 2007-08.

That’s it. That’s why betting on Bradley to hold the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday evening probably isn’t a smart play. Then again, it isn’t that long ago that he was playing on the Hooters Tour and trying to earn a spot on the PGA Tour.

Now, he’s a major champion, a Ryder Cupper and clearly someone who is going to be a factor in the game for years.

He may get back to the mound at Fenway again in the near future.

Come to think of it, the Red Sox might be able to use him.

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Stock Watch: Fans getting louder, rowdier

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2018, 3:01 pm

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

RISING

Bubba (+9%): Half of his 10 Tour titles have come at Augusta National and Riviera – that’s pretty stout. Though he can be maddening to cover because of his personality quirks, an in-form Watson is a must-watch.

Phil (+5%): For the first time in 11 years, Mickelson put together three consecutive top-6 finishes on Tour. Suddenly, another green jacket or that elusive U.S. Open title doesn’t seem so far away.

Kevin Na (+3%): How much fun would this guy be on a Ryder Cup team? He hits it dead straight – which will be important at Le Golf National, where the home team will narrow the fairways – and would drive the Europeans absolutely bonkers.

West Coast swing (+2%): From Jason Day to Gary Woodland to Ted Potter to Watson, the best coast produced a series of memorable comeback stories. And that’s always good news for those of us who get paid to write about the game.

South Korean talent (+1%): They already represent nine of the top 16 players in the world, and that doesn’t even include Jin Young Ko, who just won in her first start as an LPGA member.



FALLING

Steve Stricker Domination (-1%): Those predicting that he would come out and mop up on the PGA Tour Champions – hi there! – will be surprised to learn that he’s now 0-for-7 on the senior circuit (with five top-3s), after Joe Durant sped past him on the final day in Naples. The quality of golf out there is strong.

Patrick Cantlay’s routine (-2%): Never really noticed it before, but Cantlay ground to a halt during the final round, often looking at the cup six or seven times before finally stroking his putt. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that his final-round scoring average is nearly four strokes higher than his openers.

Lydia Ko (-3%): Another wholesale change? Whatever is going on here – and it reeks of too much parental involvement – it’s not good for her short- or long-term future.

Tiger (-4%): It’s early, and he’s obviously savvy enough to figure it out, but nothing else in this comeback will matter if Woods can’t start driving it on the planet.

Fan behavior (-8%): Kudos to Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas for taking the Riviera spectators to task for their tiresome (and increasingly aggressive) calls after a player hits a shot. The only problem? PGA National’s par-3 17th could be even worse – the drunk fans are closer to the action, and the hole is infinitely more difficult than TPC Scottsdale’s 16th. Buckle up.

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USGA, R&A detail World Handicap System

By Randall MellFebruary 20, 2018, 2:00 pm

The USGA and the R&A released details Tuesday of a proposed new World Handicap System.

The WHS takes the six handicapping systems that exist worldwide and aligns them under a new single system.

The USGA and the R&A will govern the WHS with the six existing handicap authorities administering them locally. A two-year transition will begin to fully implement the new system in 2020.

The unified alignment is designed to make it easier to obtain and maintain a handicap and to make the handicap more equitable among golfers of differing abilities and genders around the world.

“For some time, we’ve heard golfers say, ‘I’m not good enough to have a handicap,’ or ‘I don’t play enough to have a handicap,’” USGA executive director Mike Davis said. “We want to make the right decisions now to encourage a more welcoming and social game.”

Davis said the effort is designed to both simplify and unify the handicap system.

“We’re excited to be taking another important step – along with modernizing golf’s rules – to provide a pathway into the sport, making golf easier to understand and more approachable and enjoyable for everyone to play,” he said.

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said the new handicap system should make the game more inviting.

“We want to make it more attractive to golfers to obtain a handicap and strip away some of the complexity and variation which can be off-putting for newcomers,” Slumbers said. “Having a handicap, which is easier to understand and is truly portable around the world, can make golf much more enjoyable and is one of the unique selling points of our sport.”

The new WHS system aims to more accurately gauge the score a golfer is “reasonably capable of achieving” on any course around the world under normal conditions.

Key features of the WHS include:

*Flexibility in formats of play, allowing both competitive and recreational rounds to count for handicap purposes and ensuring that a golfer’s handicap is more reflective of potential ability.

*A minimal number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap; a recommendation that the number of scores needed to obtain a new handicap be 54 holes from any combination of 18-hole and 9-hole rounds, but with “some discretion available for handicapping authorities or national associations to set a different minimum within their own jurisdiction.”

*A consistent handicap that “is portable” from course to course and country to country through worldwide use of the USGA course and slope rating system, already used in more than 80 countries.

*An average-based calculation of a handicap, taken from the best eight out of the last 20 scores and “factoring in memory of previous demonstrated ability for better responsiveness and control.”

*A calculation that considers the impact that abnormal course and weather conditions might have on a player’s performance each day.  

*Daily handicap revisions, taking account of the course and weather conditions calculation.

*A limit of net double bogey on the maximum hole score (for handicapping purposes only). 

*A maximum handicap limit of 54.0, regardless of gender, to encourage more golfers to measure and track their performance to increase their enjoyment of the game.

The USGA and the R&A devised the WHS after a review of the handicap systems currently administered by six authorities around the world: Golf Australia, the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU) in Great Britain and Ireland, the European Golf Association (EGA), the South African Golf Association (SAGA), the Argentine Golf Association (AAG) and the USGA. Those authorities, plus the Japan Golf Association and Golf Canada, collaborated in helping develop the new system.

The six handicapping authorities represent approximately 15 million golfers in 80 countries who currently maintain a golf handicap.  

“While the six existing handicap systems have generally worked very well locally, on a global basis, their different characteristics have sometimes resulted in inconsistency, with players of the same ability ending up with slightly different handicaps,” the USGA and the R&A stated in a joint release. “This has sometimes resulted in unnecessary difficulties and challenges for golfers competing in handicap events or for tournament administrators. A single WHS will pave the way to consistency and portability.”

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Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 11:44 pm

The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET


Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.


Notables in the field:

Tiger Woods

• Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

• Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

• Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.


Rickie Fowler

• The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

• Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

• On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 


Rory McIlroy

• It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

• McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

• Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13). 

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Randall's Rant: Tiger no longer one with the chaos

By Randall MellFebruary 19, 2018, 9:49 pm

Back in the day, Tiger Woods appeared to relish riding atop the chaos, above the raucous waves of excitement that followed him wherever he went.

Like Kelly Slater surfing epic peaks at Banzai Pipeline ...

Like Chris Sharma dangling atop all the hazards on the cliff face of “The Impossible Climb” at Clark Mountain ...

Hell, like Chuck Yeager ahead of the sonic boom he created breaking the sound barrier in a Bell X-1 over the Mojave Desert in 1947.

It was difficult to tell whether Woods was fueling the bedlam in his duel with Bob May in the 2000 PGA Championship, or if it was fueling him.

Fans scampered in a frenzy you rarely see in golf to get the best look they could at his next shot at Valhalla in that playoff.

Same thing when Woods turned his 15-shot rout into a victory parade in the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach that same year.

And when Woods improbably chipped in at the 16th at Augusta National to shake every pine tree at the Masters before going on to defeat Chris DiMarco in a playoff in 2005.

Tiger brought a boisterous, turbulent new wave of excitement to the game, unrivaled since Arnie’s Army followed the legend in his heyday.

Woods attracted new fans who did not understand golf’s time-honored traditions. He lured them to the game’s most hallowed grounds. There were challenges with that, though they always seemed more daunting to Woods’ playing partners than to him.

At his best, Tiger seemed to be one with the chaos, able to turn its energy into his energy.

Every Tiger pairing in his prime turned wherever he was into a home game, turned every golf course into his stadium and transformed every opponent into the visiting team.

We heard how hard that was for the Bob Mays, Chris DiMarcos and even the Ernie Els of the world.



That’s what added to the intrigue of Tiger’s return to Riviera last week, and what will make this week at PGA National and the Honda Classic similarly interesting.

Tiger’s back.

Well, the overly exuberant frenzy only he can create is back, but his game isn’t. Not yet. And now we’re hearing how the bedlam is a challenge to more than his playing partners. It’s a challenge to his game, too.

“It cost me a lot of shots over the years,” Woods said at the Genesis Open. “It’s cost me a few tournaments here and there.

“I’ve dealt with it for a very long time.”

Huh? Did Tiger forget the advantage he had playing in a storm? Or are today’s storms different, more unruly, more destructive?

Did having total control of all facets of his game when he was at his best make the bedlam work for him?

Does the focus it requires to find his old magic today make the chaos work against him?

Jack Nicklaus used to say that when he heard players complaining about difficult conditions going into a major, he checked them off his list of competitive threats.

You wonder if Tiger did the same back in the day, when players talked about the challenges that surrounded a pairing with him.

Golf is different than other sports. That has to be acknowledged here.

When you hear mainstream sports fans wonder what is so wrong with a fan yelling in a player’s backswing, you know they don’t understand the game. A singular comment breaking the silence over a player’s shot in golf is like a fan sneaking onto the field in football and tripping a receiver racing up the sideline. It is game-changing chaos.

Is Tiger facing game-changing chaos now?

Or was Riviera’s noise something he just can’t harness in his current state of repair? Is there more pressure on him trying to come back in that environment?

If Rory McIlroy needed a “couple Advil” for the headache the mayhem at the Genesis Open caused him playing with Tiger last week, then May and DiMarco must have needed shots of Demerol.

Then all those guys who lost majors to Tiger in final-round pairings with him must have felt like they endured four-hour migraines.

“It got a little out of hand,” Justin Thomas said of his two days with Tiger at Riviera.

Maybe McIlroy and Thomas were dealing with something boisterously new, more Phoenix Open in its nausea than anything Tiger created when he broke golf out of a niche.

Whatever it is, Tiger’s challenge finding his best will be even more complicated if he’s no longer one with the chaos, if he can no longer turn its energy into his energy.

If that’s the case, he really may be just one of the guys this time around.