Getty Images

Rosaforte Report: How Keegan came all the way back

By Tim RosaforteSeptember 17, 2018, 1:40 pm

There was a surreal moment accompanying Keegan Bradley’s victory at the BMW Championship on Sept. 10 when he didn’t know what to think. That moment occurred when Bradley looked at his cell phone and noticed that U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk sent him a text.

For a split second Bradley thought, “Is he?” As in, “Is he going to pick me for the team?”

It wasn’t long before Bradley came back to reality. His win over new world-No. 1 Justin Rose and a leaderboard stocked with world-class talent was a statement, but it was a little late to punch a last-minute ticket to Paris.

“I didn’t think he needed to call me to tell me I wasn’t a pick,” Bradley said from his phone last week in Jupiter, Fla. “It never seriously crossed my mind.”  

But it was a nice gesture, because all along Bradley felt like Tony Finau deserved it more. Just the fact he was in the conversation in the 11th hour meant a lot to him. So did the captain reaching out before publicly announcing Finau as his last pick.

The conversation might have been different had Bradley not shot 78 playing in the final group on Sunday at the Northern Trust, just two weeks earlier.

“That one hurt because I thought that was the day that I was going to announce myself as being back in the golf world,” he said. “Not only did I not do that, but it was kind of embarrassing, to be honest. I think that day I was trying to be someone else. I wasn’t trying to be me. I kind of came to that epiphany this past week. I was trying to be this player that was perfect, and that day I was not me. It’s hard for me to really describe. This past week [at the BMW] I was myself. I wasn’t trying to be perfect. That was the difference.”

Bradley’s work in 2018 looks better now than it did then, with a win in a FedExCup playoff event, a second-place finish in the CIMB Classic and three more top-10s that included a T-7 at The Players and a solo fourth at the RBC Canadian Open that sported rounds of 63 and 64. But throughout the year, his play never warranted an invite to any of the team meetings or dinners, and that hurt. “That was a bummer,” admitted Bradley, who competed in two Ryder Cups (2012 and 2014) as Phil Mickelson’s partner.

The consolation was that Bradley’s victory moved him from 52nd to sixth in the FedExCup points standings, putting him in position to win the $10 million bonus this week in Atlanta. That took some of the sting off not making the Ryder Cup team and gave promise, at age 32, to the years ahead.

The decline in Bradley’s young career started with an exchange of high-profile swing coaches starting 2013, when he left Jim McLean for Chuck Cook and went back to McLean before settling on Darren May, an English teaching pro at The Bear's Club.

“We worked hard on making him accept the fact that he needs to be somewhat of an average putter, because his ball-striking and driving stats are so good,” May explained. “They’re all shooting scores in different ways.”

Ranked second in strokes gained: approach and sixth in strokes gained: tee-to-green, Bradley ultimately fed off the success his close friend Webb Simpson achieved in 2018, when he overcame the anchor ban with a win at The Players and a spot on Furyk’s team.

“Our career arc has been the same,” Bradley said, referring to Simpson. “Watching what he did really changed my mentality.”

The final piece of Bradley’s resurrection were the words of encouragement passed along by Michael Jordan through a relationship cultivated at The Bear's Club. Not long after he signed for the 78 at Ridgewood, Bradley started reading MJ's inspirational words on his phone. His basic message: Take from the experience and build on it.

“I can’t say enough nice things about MJ,” Bradley said. “It’s so cool to have him as a friend. Every time something happens, he shocks me with how amazing a guy he is. He texted me the whole time ... even after what I went through in New Jersey. It means so much. I grew up idolizing this guy. To have him sending me texts after I shot 78, and say such positive things, it truly helped me. It made me say, 'OK, you have to look at the positives.’ What he said really resonated with me. It really helped me on Monday [at Aronimink].”

The most-asked question Bradley faced after winning the BMW was to identify the low point in his seven-year Tour career. It was 2016 season, when he didn’t advance past the first round of the playoffs, fell out of the top-100 in the world, and ranked 183rd in strokes gained: putting. Said Bradley, “I wasn’t quite aware of how off I was.”

Two seasons later, his strokes-gained numbers were fractionally worse. The pattern was for Bradley to bring a different putter to almost every tournament. After a missed cut on the Riviera greens at this year’s Genesis Open, Keegan told his father, “If I can’t putt better, I can’t compete.”

What made this bearable for Bradley was having wife Jillian and newborn son Logan traveling with him throughout the season. Lifting 10-month-old Logan above his head at the trophy ceremony was an Instagram moment for the Bradleys, because they had been through this forever. When I caught up with Bradley two days later, he had just put Logan down for a nap.

“I just love having Jill and Logan out at tournaments,” Bradley said. “I didn’t know how that was going to be. It’s such a different thing. Now, I hate it when they’re not out there.”

The turnaround started one week after the Honda Classic in early March, after Bradley and his team exhausted all his short-putter options. With May pushing him, Keegan committed to the arm-lock technique popularized by Matt Kuchar. Some low rounds started popping up, including a 62 the day before his dreaded 78 at Ridgewood. But two weeks later, the arm-lock produced Keegan’s fourth career victory and first since the 2012 WGC Bridgestone Invitational. For the week, Bradley gained picked up seven shots on the field with his putting. While he won’t be in Paris, he will watch knowing he beat Rose, 1 up, on the day the Englishman became the No. 1 player in the world.

The comeback victory brought up a question: What was more important in Bradley’s career, his breakthrough victory in the 2011 PGA Championship at age 25, or his comeback in Pennsylvania at 32?

Bradley says the PGA, because it was a major, but both of his parents say it was the BMW. Bradley’s sports psychologist, Greg Carton, says they’re both fantastic for different reasons.

“People love seeing a guy like Keegan, who has struggled for a few years, getting his form back,” Carton said. “Some of those guys disappear and you never hear from them again. I’d say this was [bigger], as far as showing him, that he really belongs. A lot of guys win earlier in their career and get punished in a way. They don’t learn how hard the game is at times and then they’re expectations are sort of skewed. This is massive for him on a lot of levels.”

Getty Images

Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''

Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai

Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

Getty Images

Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.

Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.

As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

"Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."

Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.

"We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."

Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.

"You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."

Getty Images

Koepka has his chance 'to earn' his way to No. 1

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:09 am

There won't need to be any wonky math involved. He won't have to settle for finally reaching the the top via some kind of mathematical reset while he's sitting at home on the couch (or more likely working out in the gym).

No, Brooks Koepka on Sunday in South Korea will have a chance to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking the way every player would most want to - with a victory.

On the strength of a bogey-free round of 5-under 67 Saturday, Koepka will enter the final round of the CJ Cup four clear of Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, with six more players five behind.

The tournament is Koepka's to lose, and so too is the No. 1 ranking. So long as Justin Thomas doesn't somehow defend his title from 12 shots back, Koepka can supplant Dustin Johnson atop the rankings with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

"It was something I wanted to do. I always wanted to become World No. 1 in a week that I was playing," Koepka said Saturday. "I thought like I could really earn it and not have a week off where it just so happens that you bump up. No, it would be very special, and to do it here would be nice and hopefully get to world No. 1 and cap it off with a win, I don't think there would be much better."

It would be a fitting end to this breakthrough year for Koepka, who successfully defended his U.S. Open title and then added his third major victory at the PGA Championship en route to claiming the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award. Oddly enough, considering his status a three-time major winner and an impending No. 1, this would be Koepka's fifth Tour victory but only his second in a non-major; his only regular Tour win to date was his first, at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

"My confidence has always been pretty high," Koepka said. "Anytime you can win three majors you're going to be feeling pretty good about yourself. To do what I've done over the last two years has been special, but I'm looking to build on that."

Getty Images

Koepka ahead by four, with No. 1 ranking in his grasp

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 5:48 am

Following a closing birdie and a third-round 67 at Nine Bridges, Brooks Koepka will take a four-shot lead over Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy into final round of the CJ Cup. Here's how Koepka separated himself from the field in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-13), Piercy (-9), Poulter (-9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-8), Cameron Smith (-8), Jaime Lovemark (-8), Pat Perez (-8), Gary Woodland (-8), Chez Reavie (-8)

What it means: Koepka is in search of his fifth PGA Tour victory and – believe it or not – only his second non-major. The three-time major champion’s only other win came all the way back in February 2015, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One off the lead to start the day, Koepka opened with eight straight pars and birdied Nos. 9 and 10 to take the outright lead at 10 under par. He added three more circles at 14, 17 and 18 to close out a bogey-free round of 5 under and go ahead by ahead by four. He'll be chased on Sunday by Piercy, a four-time PGA Tour winner who won the Zurich Classic earlier this year alongside Billy Horschel, and by Poulter, who ended a five-year worldwide winless drought back in April and is coming off a 2-2 performance at the Ryder Cup, with a Sunday singles victory over current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Speaking of which, unless Justin Thomas finds a way to win this tournament from 12 back, Koepka will for the first time ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Round of the day: After contending last week at the CIMB, Shubankhar Sharma rebounded from opening rounds of 74 and 75 with a nine-birdie, 8-under 64 to move up 45 spots into a tie for 26th through 54 holes.

Best of the rest: Four players – Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ted Potter Jr., Jason Day and Brendan Steele – shot 7-under 65 Saturday. Day played his first four holes in 2 over and his final 14 in 9 under.

Biggest disappointment: The only previous winner of this event, world No. 4 Justin Thomas entered the week with a chance to take back the No. 1 ranking with a successful title defense. But rounds of 73-70-72 have him 1 under for the week. Thomas played his back nine in 1 over Saturday with six pars, a birdie, a quadruple bogey and a closing eagle.

Shot of the day: Koepka flying his tee shot 330 yards to the front edge of the green at the par-4 14th and going on to two-putt for birdie.