August 14, 2011
Stop me if you've heard this one before, but a guy wearing red on Sunday just won a major championship, and he did it by rolling in putts with emphatic fist-pumps and stuffing precision irons to tucked pins.
No, we're not talking about Tiger Woods; we're talking about the newest golfer to succeed wearing his Sunday red: Keegan Bradley, who at just 25 years old became America's newest rising superstar with a dramatic playoff victory over Jason Dufner at the 93rd PGA Championship.
With a couple holes remaining in the championship, it didn't even look like Bradley would be part of the equation coming down the stretch. One shot back of Jason Dufner and sitting in the left rough next to the green on the par 3 15th, Bradley bladed a wedge and watched it roll down the hill into the water. He ended up carding a double-bogey that dropped him to 5-under for the tournament, and made him a mere afterthought.
At least that's what most people assumed. But if we've learned anything about Keegan Bradley during his rookie year on the PGA Tour, it's that the kid doesn't have any quit in him. That may sound a little cliche, but we saw the moxy he had earlier this year at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, where he braved extreme weather conditions at TPC Four Seasons to capture his first title in, what else, a playoff.
That's why it shouldn't come as a surprise when Keegan started to work his way back up the leader board on Atlanta Athletic Club's three hardest holes, carding birdies on the 16th and then rolling in an incredible birdie putt on the 17th to move to 8-under.
For 68 holes it didn't seem like Bradley's heroics would matter. Jason Dufner was playing in a different world, hitting fairways and greens until he came to the par-3 15th. That's where he started to come unraveled, bogeying three of his final four holes, after being the only player in the field to go through the daunting four-hole stretch at AAC without a single bogey during the week.
When Dufner holed out on 18 to force a playoff, you figured he had a chance, but the way Keegan Bradley finished his round, with a flurry of birdies that looked almost Tiger-esque, you knew Bradley had the mental edge.
And we saw why from the start of the playoff, as Dufner threw a dart into the 16th to 6 feet, only to watch Bradley match and then beat the shot, rolling his approach to 4 feet and making the birdie putt.
It was the kind of putt that made you realize Bradley was doing some special. Not only did he go three-under over the final six holes (including the three hole playoff), but he hit some shots that made you shake you head and smile.
We continue to talk about Rickie Fowler being the future of American golf, and maybe he still is, but Keegan Bradley's performance on Sunday was something golf fans will remember for a long time.
It seems fitting that a 25-year-old up-and-comer ended the American major drought on Sunday afternoon. The golf world has been clamoring for a golfer to take the reigns of the game and lead the sport, from the American perspective at least, into the future. Bradley could be that guy.
He's got the moxy of a veteran, and when he gets in contention he rarely shirks away from the competition. Time will tell how good Bradley becomes, but for at least one day, American golf has a player that should get the blood pumping again. It certainly did on Sunday afternoon.
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