Each week, the GolfChannel.com team offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the most recent events and news developments. This week, we focus on Keegan Bradley WGC-Bridgestone victory and what it means for the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
That Keegan Bradley won't have to sweat out a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. With his win in Akron, Bradley moved from ninth to fourth on the points list, guaranteeing him an automatic berth on the Medinah-bound squad. Bradley was denied a wild-card selection for last year's Presidents Cup. This will more than make up for that rejection. – Mercer Baggs
I learned the American Ryder Cup team is going to look pretty incredible. With his win at Firestone on Sunday, Keegan Bradley jumped from ninth to fourth in the standings. He's on the team. But, he bumped Hunter Mahan – twice a winner this season – from the automatically qualifying top eight with one week to go. Behind Mahan? Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler.
While that exposes a clear flaw in the Ryder Cup points system, it's pretty remarkable a player with two wins is on the outside looking in at Davis Love III's team. – Ryan Ballengee
I learned that having a 71-hole lead isn't all it's cracked up to be. Throughout this season, we've witnessed a rash of 54-hole leaders failing to close out tournaments on Sunday afternoon. Lately, though, that trend has extended another 17 holes – to the point where playing follow the leader may be a better position than being leader itself. Much like a NASCAR race in which a contender can draft off someone before swiftly making a passing move, golf is becoming a game won on the final lap. It makes for high drama and entertainment, but also causes heartache for the loser and a subdued celebration for the champion. Nobody ever said winning is easy. We've learned lately just how difficult it can be. – Jason Sobel
That Keegan Bradley, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker made life easier for U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III on Sunday at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Although a net loss for Furyk, who double bogeyed the last hole to finish a stroke back, the threesome’s win-place-place finish will help clarify Captain America’s team for this year’s matches. Bradley, who was passed over for a spot on last year’s Presidents Cup, secured a place at Medinah with his victory, while Stricker, Tiger Woods’ go-to partner in team play, moved to 10th. Furyk, who hasn’t missed a Ryder Cup since 1997, is 11th, well within the margin of error for a pair of captain’s pick. – Rex Hoggard
Keegan Bradley isn’t just the defending champion at next week’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. He ought to be the favorite.
Bradley didn’t look ready to defend most of this summer. After a strong start to the 2012 season, including a tie for second at the Nissan Open, Bradley cooled off. Since his T-4 at the Shell Houston Open in early May, he has failed to post a finish better than a tie for 24th in his last 10 starts.
Still, with his gritty finish Sunday to win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, with four birdies on the back nine and that clutch 15-foot putt for par under pressure at the last, Bradley showed his game is right where he wants it. He ought to take more confidence and momentum to Kiawah Island than anyone in the 156-player PGA Championship field. – Randall Mell