REFILE-Golf-Bradley flies under the radar to claim PGA glory

Reuters

Mon, 15 Aug 04:00:00 2011

PGA Tour rookie Keegan Bradley was the unlikely winner of the PGA Championship on Sunday, his playoff victory over Jason Dufner completing a meteoric rise from the lesser tours that few had noticed.

Bradley, ranked 108th in the world coming into this week, gave the United States the boost they needed by ending a run of six straight major wins for non-Americans, despite never being one of the players picked out as part of the new generation.

Not that the former Hooters Tour and Nationwide Tour competitor cares about lack of attention.

"Ever since I was 10 years old, I've kind of flown under the radar," Bradley said. "I had what I thought was a pretty good college career but I never really got noticed. It was the same in junior golf and kind of the same out here.

"I've been having a good year, and that's just the way it happens with me, which is fine. I was happy with it. It's cool to be thought of as one of those guys now.

"I always wanted while growing up to win tournaments and win majors, and I can't believe this trophy is sitting next to me. It's an honour to be even thought of in that category."

Bradley's victory was all the more remarkable given that his late push came after the bitter disappointment of a triple-bogey on the par-three 15 where he found water.

The 25-year-old said his cool reaction to that setback, as he recovered to make two birdies and eliminate a five-stroke deficit, was aided by some sound advice from four-times major winner Phil Mickelson.

MICKELSON MENTORING

"Phil has been great to me," Bradley said. "He's just told me to, you know, stay more patient out there. And the major thing I tried to do this week was under react to everything whether it was a good thing or a terrible thing.

"I under-reacted to the triple and I over-reacted a little when I made that putt on 17 but that was something that just came out of me. I didn't even know it was coming.

"That was the key -- to under-react. And if you watch Phil play, he gets excited but he never gets too down on himself, and that was the key."

Mickelson is by no means the only influence on Bradley's career -- his father is a member of the PGA, a teaching professional, and his aunt is Pat Bradley, who won six LPGA majors.

"I grew up going to Pat's tournaments and totally idolising her and wanting to be like her out there," Bradley said. "I remember as a kid going to her tournaments and literally staring her in the face and I'm her nephew, and she was so into it, she would not even recognise me.

"And I thought that was cool. I always wanted to be like her.

"My dad gave me the opportunity to be able to play endless golf when it was not snowing in Vermont. Endless golf, all day long, which is as much as I could get -- and it's paid off."

The history books will also note that Bradley is the first player with a long putter to win a major championship.

"I'm very, very proud to be the first belly putter to win a major," he said, sparking laughter in the interview room. "I remember people telling me when I first switched: 'But nobody has ever won a major with it'.

"And I remember looking at them and going, 'I'm going to be the first one to win a major', just joking pretty much. It's a surreal thing that it's true."

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