Golf: Major feat startles Bradley
THE name is Keegan Bradley - not Bradley Keegan - and he is golf 's newest major champion.
How he did it last night, though, is right up there with Paul Lawrie beating Jean Van de Velde in 1999 for extraordinary finishes.
For all the world it looked as if fellow American Jason Dufner was going to win the USPGA title at Atlanta Athletic Club. He stood on the 15th tee five strokes clear of the man who would become champion, after Bradley's triple bogey there moments before.
But Dufner bogeyed the next three holes, Bradley birdied the 16th and 17th and in the three-hole play-off the 25-year-old, with a birdie and two pars, took the trophy by one, with Dufner going par-bogey-birdie.
The nephew of Pat Bradley, winner of six majors in the women's game, stands alongside 2003 Open champion Ben Curtis in a group of two, the only players to win a men's major at the very first try since 1913.
And not only is he the first to capture a major with a long putter, but also an unprecedented seven majors in a row have now been taken by first-time winners.
Bradley follows Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke in that list.
“It feels unbelievable,” Bradley said. “It seems like a dream and I'm afraid I'm going to wake up here in the next five minutes and it's not going to be real.”
Having finished badly at the World Championship event in Akron a week earlier, Bradley's triple bogey - he chipped into the lake - had him thinking “here we go again”.
But then he reminded himself of what a tough finish it is.
“No lead is safe. I kept trying to tell myself that and, man, it was so exciting,” Bradley said.
“I also kept telling myself, ‘Don't let that hole define this whole tournament'. I just didn't want to be remembered as the guy who tripled that hole.
“I'm very proud. It's the best golf I've ever played.”
The most exciting moment was his curling 40-footer on the 17th first time round.
“I'll never forget it the rest of my life. I scared it twice from long range earlier in the day and that thing went in dead centre – it was unbelievable,” he said.
“But as soon as I realised I was going into a play-off I completely calmed down.”
Bradley spared a thought for runner-up Dufner, who has not won on the PGA Tour now in 148 starts.
“I feel for the guy, honestly. He played well enough to win, but it’s just the way it goes sometimes – it's difficult.”
The 34-year-old Dufner, who almost holed his second shot in the play-off and yet fell one behind there, said of his earlier collapse: “I don't feel like I was nervous.
“I knew what was at stake. I was confident with my game, but just didn't quite execute a couple of shots coming in.
“I'm disappointed now, but there's a lot of good things to take from this week. I love the competition and I want to be as good as I can be. If that's 20th in the world with no majors, first in the world with 10 majors or never win a Tour event I'll be fine with it.
“I'm not going to let this define my career. I have a lot of things ahead of me.”
Dane Anders Hansen will hope the same after finishing only one shot back in third, and so will Swede Robert Karlsson after he bogeyed the last three holes to slip to joint fourth three shots back.
Luke Donald and Lee Westwood were joint eighth. Donald suffered over the closing stretch all week and Westwood simply could not make enough putts.
Their wait for a major goes on. Westwood has now played in 55, Donald 34.
Bradley has played one. That is all he needed.