In a year when all four majors were captured by first-time winners in a variety of dramatic scenarios, the PGA Championship may have proved to be the most dramatic of all. 25-year-old Keegan Bradley trumped the field with final round performance full of moxie and guile we would not have expected from a rookie on the PGA tour.
Keegan’s competitive career has always shown moxie-as a Nationwide guy last year he made the cut in 18 of his 28 events, finishing top 25 in 15 of those to earn his PGA card as the 14th ranked player on that tour. His first year on the big tour has been much of the same-he made 16 cuts out of 24 starts including 2 wins, 3 other top tens, and 10 top 25s on his way to earning $3,432,000. When this guy puts the stare on an event he intends to compete to the end and walk away with a serious pile of money. Depending on how he does in the playoffs he has a real chance at the unheard of double honor of Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year in the same year.
His performance yesterday was as riveting as his stare-you could tell that his playoff win at the Byron Nelson this year and his excellent showing in the WGC Bridgestone a few weeks ago prepared him well to deal with the unbridled pressure of winning the first major he ever played on a course that brought the best in the game to their knees, holding their head in their hands wondering what went wrong.
For Keegan, his birdie response in the final round on 16 and 17 after the train wreck triple bogey on 15 that left him five shots back of Jason Dufner was the seminal statement of the event. Coupled with the good fortune Dufner conveyed by going three over in the last four hole gauntlet at the Atlanta Athletic Club, there was little doubt going into the three-hole playoff who was going to prevail. Dufner hit it to six feet on the first playoff hole and Bradley one-upped him by stuffing it even closer and making the putt for birdie and a one shot lead. On 17 and 18 Bradley fearlessly ignored the more conservative approach and took dead aim at the flag clearing the water by just feet on both approach shots. The resulting pars seemed to deflate Dufner’s resolve and it was just a cool walk to the trophy ceremony for Bradley from there. It should not go unnoticed that Bradley beat a host of twenty-something American hopefuls to a first major victory-guys like Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney, Rickie Fowler and others who have gotten all the press as the next great American golfing hope.
Kudos to Jason Dufner who displayed almost equal resolve as a relative unknown coping with the pressure of leading a major on the final day. He showed real class after fumbling the trophy down the stretch saying, “I’m disappointed now but there are a lot of good things to take from this week……I know the media tries to define careers of certain players…you did this…you didn’t do that….I want to be as good as I can be. If that is 20th in the world with no majors or first in the world with ten majors or never win a Tour Event, I’ll be fine with that. Hat’s off to Keegan, he played great to get into the playoff and played great in the playoff. He deserved to win”. This is a guy with his head on straight who will build a solid career on the tour because he has proper perspective and ambitious expectation at the same time.
On a lighter note, after it was said and done, Keegan Bradley tweeted the interested masses that he was celebrating with “3 Bud Lights, Cereal, and P.P. & J.”. I have a feeling that once the check clears the account he will be looking at a serious upgrade in his post victory celebrations in the future.