KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina (AFP) – Keegan Bradley breathed some life into the defense of his 2011 PGA Championship title with his surprise victory on Sunday at the PGA Tour’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
A 15-foot par putt on the final hole helped the American beat his countryman Jim Furyk by one shot, securing the final tune-up tournament for the PGA Championship at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort starting Thursday.
Wearing two hats at this week’s event is something new for Bradley, 26, who up until two days ago had not won on the PGA Tour since becoming just the third player ever to win a major championship on his debut.
“You know, after I won last year at the PGA, it was a life-changer for a lot of different reasons,” Bradley said during Tuesday’s practice round.
“A lot more people knew who I was. It 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.”
Until the Bridgestone win, however, Bradley had struggled to get back to the top of the leaderboard. He tied for 68th at the US Open, tied for 34th at the British Open and finished in a tie for 27th at the Masters.
“After I won the PGA last year, it was almost like I couldn’t catch up with my rest,” Bradley said. “No matter what, I was tired.
“I kind of settled down towards the end of the (PGA Tour) playoffs and was able to relax and played very well through Augusta, and then went on another little streak where I might have been putting too much pressure on myself.
“And it’s just a matter of getting back to what you’ve always done, and that’s just play golf and not put extra pressure on yourself.” Bradley will tee off on Thursday with a lot more confidence than he had two weeks ago, having won the preceding US tour event.
“It’s just a matter of getting rested and ready to play,” he said.
Despite all his success, Bradley says he still goes into tournaments feeling like he is an under dog.
“In my head, I still am,” he said. “I’ll always think that,” though he does not have to look far to find motivation.
“I’ve always set out when I play golf to be the best player I can be, and I really feel as though I want to be one of the best players in the world.
“There’s always something to play for, whether you’re trying to make the Ryder Cup team or trying to make the Presidents Cup team, try to get top 10 in the world, No. 1 in the world; there’s always something.