Bradley realises Ryder dream
JOB DONE! Keegan Bradley’s perfectly timed win in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational – coming just days before his defence of the USPGA Championship – not only ensured he travelled down to Kiawah Island in South Carolina with another tour win under his belt and increased confidence, but it also locked in his place on the US team for next month’s Ryder Cup in Medinah.
“I try not to let people know how much (making the Ryder Cup team) means to me, but I think about it every second. I probably shouldn’t even be saying that. But I just want to be on that team so badly, it would just mean so much,” said Bradley.
He jumped to fourth in the US team standings with his victory in Akron, where he made an up-and-down par save from a plugged lie in a greenside bunker to overtake long-time leader Jim Furyk, who finished with a double-bogey six for a heart-breaking loss.
Of his own play from the trap, Bradley said: “ (When) first I saw it plugged and then I saw the shot immediately of kind of going up that hill. The way I’ve been putting, I just wanted to give myself a chance. I hit a really spectacular shot from the bunker (to 16 feet).
“I was reading this putt, and I just kept telling myself that this is the exact moment that I live for, that you play golf for, that you grow up your whole life, and I’m living it. It’s just an amazing feeling to be in that moment and just loving every second of it. I didn’t think for a second I was going to miss it.”
Now comes the hard part: Bradley, who won the USPGA last year in his rookie season on tour and just two years after he was ploughing along on the developmental Hooters Tour, will seek to follow up his Bridgestone win by contending in the PGA.
He intends to pick the brain of Phil Mickelson in his attempt to keep the momentum going . . . and will also put in a call to his aunt, Pat Bradley, who was one of the top women’s players on the LPGA Tour.
“My record after I’ve won tournaments isn’t that great,” acknowledged Bradley, “but, again, I’ve learned how to handle it. I’ve learned what to do after you win a tournament. I’ll be in touch with Phil and my aunt Pat. I remember after I won the (Byron) Nelson and I missed the cut terribly at Memorial, I asked her if she’d ever won back-to-back and she said, ‘one time’. She said it’s one of the hardest things to do. I look forward to the challenge. This is going to be my third time doing it and I’m going to be better equipped for it.”
Of the three Irish players who were in the field in Akron, Rory McIlroy – who finished tied-fifth, his third straight top-10 finish in Akron – headed on to Kiawah Island with a buzz of expectancy.
“I’m heading to the PGA with a lot of anticipation, more so than at the start of the week. It’s the last Major of the year and you want to do well given also it’s about another eight months to the Masters,” said the 23-year-old Ulsterman.
McIlroy – who has two third-place finishes in the PGA, in 2009 and 2010 – claimed that he “seriously” felt he could win a second career Major to add to his 2011 US Open success. “I found a sparkle in my game (over the weekend at Akron), so everything is very encouraging,” he added.
The Akron trio of McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Michael Hoey will be joined in Kiawah Island by Pádraig Harrington – who fine-tuned for the season’s final Major by claiming a top-20 finish in the Reno-Tahoe Open – and Darren Clarke, who is returning to competition for the first time since missing the cut at the British Open.
Harrington heads into the PGA knowing it is his last chance to make the European Ryder Cup automatically and that he probably needs a win to do so.
The Dubliner hasn’t won on the European or US Tours since his 2008 success in the PGA and this will be his last counting event to make the team as he is remaining on in the States to play in the upcoming FedEx Cup rather than returning to Europe for the Johnnie Walker at Gleneagles, when the qualifying concludes.