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Bradley eyeing 11th-hour Masters spot in Houston

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HUMBLE, Texas – At this point on the calendar, Keegan Bradley is used to gearing his game for the year’s first major. But as things stand right now, he’ll spend next week on the couch rather than strolling the fairways of Augusta National.

Bradley’s five-year Masters exemption for winning the PGA Championship expired last year, and he is currently projected to miss the event for the first time since 2011. He entered the Shell Houston Open ranked No. 105 in the world.

“It’s very strange,” Bradley said. “I don’t think I’ve ever played here where I haven’t (been in the Masters). It’s very difficult, but there’s still one spot you can get.”

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Bradley took a big stride toward snagging that final ticket with a 5-under 67 at the Golf Club of Houston that included seven birdies and put him into a tie for second, three shots behind Rickie Fowler. It continues a run of good form for Bradley this season, one that includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by a T-4 at Torrey Pines.

Bradley notably struggled last year with the transition away from an anchored putting stroke, but he’s now pinning a long putter against his forearm a la Matt Kuchar and finding some success.

“I feel like I’ve got something that’s working nicely,” he said. “I’m gaining hours back that I lost when they took away the belly putter. Certainly coming around.”

Once viewed as a promising young prospect, Bradley is now 30 years old and claims to have found balance both on and off the course after getting married in December.

“Everything feels very, very nice,” he said. “The putter feels good. Just a matter of going out and playing and doing it now. I’ve been playing well this year, and I think things are really starting to come together.”