Chuck Burton/Associated Press
Chuck Burton/Associated Press
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Keegan Bradley still has trouble watching those tense final holes from last year, when he rallied from a five-shot deficit to win the PGA Championship in a playoff.
“I have a very hard time watching the replay,” he said. “I really can’t. I get nervous. I get uncomfortable.”
After winning a major in his first try last year, Bradley’s best finish in one this year was a tie for 27th at the Masters – but he’s confident heading into his title defense at the PGA this week at Kiawah Island. On Sunday, the 26-year-old Bradley edged Jim Furyk in a surprising final-hole swing in the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.
It was Bradley’s third career win, and it all but assured him a spot in the Ryder Cup.
“It’s a couple different emotions,” Bradley said. “One, it frees me up a little bit. I’m not as worried about the Ryder Cup. Any time you win, it’s a great feeling. A little less pressure than you normally have. But also there’s a lot more pressure now, playing well, coming back to the PGA.”
Bradley was five shots behind with only three holes to play at least year’s PGA after a triple bogey on No. 15. That’s when he began his comeback with an impressive drive that helped him stay in contention.
“I striped it,” Bradley said. “If I didn’t hit a good drive there, I wouldn’t have won the tournament. I was able to keep it together after making triple. It was the biggest shot of my entire career.”
Jason Dufner made three consecutive bogeys, falling into a playoff, which Bradley won.
Bradley had some help last weekend, too. He saved par from a bunker on No. 18, putting pressure on Furyk, whose double bogey gave Bradley the win.
After Adam Scott wasted a four-stroke lead in the final four holes of the British Open last month, it sometimes feels like no lead is safe.
“I don’t think it’s quite explainable why it’s happening,” Bradley said. “I think now you’ve got guys coming from behind and really putting it to the guy that’s leading, and I think you’re seeing the guys feeling it a little bit. From what I’ve been watching, I feel like the guys in second place have looked freed up and shooting really low numbers and coming back and winning tournaments.”
Bradley is one of 16 different players who have won the last 16 majors – a list that includes the likes of Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, but not Tiger Woods.
Of course, Woods is the only player to win back-to-back titles at the PGA since it went to stroke play in 1958.
“A good defense for me would be to contend in the tournament at some point,” Bradley said. “Any time you have a chance to win, no matter where you finish, whether you finish 20th or third, I think that’s a great accomplishment and shows that you’re in it to win it.”
Last year, Bradley stayed in contention until the end and found himself with a shocking major title.
“It was a life-changer for a lot of different reasons,” he said. “A lot of people knew more who I was – kind of validated my position out here on tour as one of the top players. It just was a lifelong dream to win a major championship, and it kind of put me in a different category with some of my idols.”
Now, Bradley would like nothing more than to break this pattern of a different player winning each major.
“You think when you get here, you’re going to get on tour ,and you won, and you can just relax. Once you do that, it gets even harder,” he said. “It’s very difficult for me to think that I won’t have something to play for because even right now I have 100 things that I’d like to do. Every day I try to improve as a golfer and hopefully someday become one of the best.”