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BMW is Bradley's big chance to get back on track

By Will GraySeptember 14, 2017, 10:45 pm

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The decline finally felt real for Keegan Bradley in April.

After years as a mainstay near the top of the world rankings, Bradley’s game had been slowly slipping away for months as he made adjustments both on and off the course. But it wasn’t until his peers started their annual pilgrimage down Magnolia Lane without him this past spring that the former PGA champ took stock of just how far he had fallen.

“That was awful,” said Bradley, whose five-year Masters exemption for winning the 2011 PGA expired in 2016. “I normally would go early and practice and play a little bit. That was always super fun for me, and now I wasn’t allowed. I couldn’t go, so that was tough.”

It doesn’t seem that long ago that Bradley was christened as the next can’t-miss prospect when he burst out of obscurity during a steamy week at Atlanta Athletic Club, hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy in his first-ever major start. It was the second win of his rookie year, and another trophy followed the next summer at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

But since then, the hardware has been hard to come by. Bradley is in the midst of a winless drought that now stretches more than five years, one he hopes to end this week at the BMW Championship where his 6-under 65 left him in a tie for second place, three shots behind leader Marc Leishman.

The 25-year-old who seemingly couldn’t believe his fortune after that playoff over Jason Dufner is long gone. In his place stands a 31-year-old man with a baby on the way, a seasoned veteran who now has to fight off an incoming group of younger talent and who has experienced both the ups and the downs that pro golf has to offer.

“It stinks. It’s no fun watching majors at home, no fun watching Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups at home,” Bradley said. “You start feeling bad for yourself.”

The crux of Bradley’s regression can be traced back to the anchoring ban that took effect last year. His win with an anchored belly putter at the 2011 PGA was one of the results that led the USGA to take action, and Bradley admittedly struggled to find a solution.

BMW Championship: Articles, video and photos

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After finishing 47th on Tour in strokes gained putting in 2014, he fell to 128th the next season and bottomed out at No. 183 on the greens in 2016.

“It was tougher than I thought,” Bradley said. “But I was going through stuff with my game as well where I was working on that, so it was kind of like I couldn’t focus on one thing long enough.”

Bradley failed to advance to the second playoff event in his native New England last year, but he opened the fall portion of this season with four straight top-25 finishes. That proved to be a harbinger of things to come, as a more confident and consistent Bradley now sits on the cusp of advancing to the Tour Championship for the first time since 2013.

While he deserves much of the credit for his own reclamation, he put a hefty amount at the feet of veterans who offered advice during his darkest moments. Bradley has gotten tips from Ernie Els on what it takes to rebound from poor stretches, and he still has a pipeline for advice from friend and former Ryder Cup teammate Phil Mickelson, who sent Bradley a note of encouragement prior to the opening round at Conway Farms Golf Club.

“He and I have been on a stretch where we are not playing at our best, and we are close to getting it back,” Mickelson said. “I just sent him a little text, ‘Hey, let’s have a special week. We’re close, we’re playing well, let’s put it together this week.’ Because his upside, his potential as a player is as high as just about anybody.”

A spot at East Lake remains the goal for all 70 players in this week’s field but it holds extra gravity for Bradley, who missed two of the four majors this year and entered the week ranked No. 95 in the world. A schedule constructed with fully-exempt status is nice, but it doesn’t compare to one replete with the spoils of making the season finale: spots in each of the first three majors as well as the WGC-Mexico Championship.

For Bradley, this week serves as a tantalizing opportunity to ensure his absence from Augusta National is short-lived.

“Get into the Tour Championship and your year is set,” he said. “You’re basically top 50 in the world at that point. So it’s always in the back (of the mind), somewhere.”

The game is still not as easy as it felt when he was taking the Tour by storm as a rookie, and the baby-faced grin is a bit more weathered these days. But after spending the last 11 months steadily climbing back onto leaderboards, Bradley has a chance this week to put an emphatic stamp on his return to form.

Suddenly, the lows of April seem far away.

“It was a lot more fun back then, I can tell you that. It’s a lot more fun winning, playing in majors and playing in Ryder Cups,” Bradley said. “But things are different for me now. I have a lot to look forward to, and a lot to work for. I’ve got a lot more years out here, so I look forward to that.”

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:32 pm

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the early 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots out of the lead among those who played Friday morning. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, might have a long stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and was outside the cut. He was in jeopardy of missing his second straight cut, depending on afternoon scoring.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.

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Football coach hates golf: Don't need practice swearing

By Jason CrookApril 20, 2018, 10:15 pm

Some football coaches are a little more talkative than others. On one side of the spectrum, there's Bill Belichick. On the other sits Washington State football coach Mike Leach.

Leach always delivers the goods, and when asked recently if he liked golf, he didn't hold back:

As wrong as the 57-year-old is on the topic (golf is awesome), the man makes some hilarious points:

• “It’s boring. I don’t care where that ball goes.”

• "Golfers are always practicing their swing. But you know what I never did? I never practice fishing in my living room.”

• "They'll line up over the ball and they'll say they're going to do something that you can't do with a sniper rifle and a scope, but they're going to do it with a stick and a ball."

• “Golf’s pretty much for people that don’t swear effectively enough or need practice. And so there are people that need golf, and I don’t think I do.”

So in conclusion, it's confirmed: Mike Leach - not a golf guy.

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Quiros takes 1-shot lead in Morocco

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 8:22 pm

RABAT, Morocco - Alvaro Quiros shot a solid 2-under 70 in windy conditions to push into a one-shot lead after two rounds of the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco on Friday.

Quiros fought the elements, carding seven birdies and five bogeys to move to 7 under overall and take the outright lead at the halfway point of the European Tour event.

The Spaniard was one clear of Andrew Dodt, who moved into contention with a 4-under 68 at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course. Dodt dropped two shots in his first six holes but the Australian recovered from that shaky start to collect four birdies and an eagle.

Full-field scores from the Trophee Hassan II

Erik van Rooyen of South Africa was another shot back in third on 5 under after his 71.

Bradley Dredge of Wales, who shared the first-round lead with Quiros, slipped off the pace with a 1-over 73. He's tied for fourth with Austin Connelly of Canada (71), 4 under par and three shots behind Quiros.