ATLANTA – This reads like fiction or recent history: Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner are at the top of the leaderboard again in Atlanta. Augusta brought out the best in Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Atlanta keeps giving us Bradley and Dufner.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” Bradley said.
Bradley shot 6-under 64 and Dufner 66 in the first round of the Tour Championship on Thursday at East Lake Golf Club. About a month ago, we had the same order in the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, where Bradley rallied and beat Dufner in a playoff.
They own this town like Elvis did Memphis.
If all that isn’t interesting enough for you, consider that East Lake used to be home of the Atlanta Athletic Club until the members moved to the current facility in a northern suburb in the 1960s.
“It’s cool to come back to Atlanta, and we get to play with each other again,” said Bradley, referring to the final twosome for the re-paired second round.
The development wasn’t lost on the soft-spoken Dufner, either. He referred to a pairing with Bradley as “interesting.”
“But I think we’ll both be more focused on the round than what happened a month ago,” Dufner said.
Asked to try to explain why Atlanta has again served up a duo that wasn’t on anyone’s mind before early August, Bradley said, “This course is similar to the Atlanta Athletic Club, with the exact same grass. We both liked that course, and it’s similar here.”
Dufner didn’t disagree with the security-blanket factor.
“I feel comfortable playing in the South,” said Dufner, who grew up in Florida and attended Auburn. “It’s kind of home for me.”
Last month, Dufner squandered a four-shot lead with three holes left in regulation. He says he hasn’t thought about it much, just a “day or two after it was over.”
“It’s shocking that people felt sorry for me,” said Dufner, who shot 4 under here despite uncharacteristically hitting only four of 14 fairways. “I told people, ‘Don’t feel bad for me.’ It wasn’t a negative experience for me. There are worse things than losing a playoff and finishing second in a major.”
Still, Bradley came back in higher spirits – his memory stoked when he arrived and drove around, his feelings warmed by galleries here.
“It’s cool in a great way,” he said. “It doesn’t happen very much where you come back to a city where you won a major a month earlier.”
Bradley, too, arrived motivated. He is one of three leading players whom U.S. Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples is considering for his second and last wild-card pick after this tournament. Brandt Snedeker and Bill Haas are the others.
“It’s a cliche to say I’m not thinking about it,” Bradley said. “But every third hole, it pops in my mind.”
• Welcome to this year’s version of “Who Wants to Be a 10-Millionaire?” The show is hosted not by someone named Regis or Meredith but by Mr. Tim Finchem.
• I like the idea of putting the winner of the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus in an oversized bath tub near the green Sunday and then filling the tub with 10 mill worth of large bills.
• D.A. Points, who is not at the Tour Championship, says he’d rather win the $10 million bonus than the PGA Championship. He chose eight-figure deposit over history.
But he said he’d rather win the three other majors over the bank heist.
So, I’m guessing the Wanamaker Trophy is worth, what, about $7 million?
• Overblown cash grab that it is, the FedEx Cup finale could be considered the seventh-best event in golf – behind the four majors, Ryder Cup and The Players.
Or at least maybe it’s heading in that direction.
Particularly if there were a bathtub by the green.
• One more time, on how I’d change the final week of the regular season:
Play the Tour Championship Wednesday through Saturday, crown a tournament winner, get a big TV bang on Saturday, get all the crazy numbers projections out of the way.
Then take the top four in season points and let them play for the $10 million on Sunday. Big Sunday TV bang, easy to follow, no hitting the computer refresh key a thousand times.
Last year, I believe I got carpal tunnel hitting the refresh and projection keys. All the numbers-crunching detracted. Steve Stricker’s finish outside the top 20 actually affected whether Matt Kuchar would win the Cup (he didn’t) over Jim Furyk.
Steve Sands, in front of white eraser, did his best to explain all the numerical possibilities when the telecast cut to him several times. I felt like I was watching CNN’s John King on election night, only without all the colorful graphs and charts.
• OK, my head’s already getting clogged. Awaiting you at the Tour Championship media center is a FedEx Cup packet of “Facts & Figures/Miscellaneous Stats.”
The packet contains more numbers than a math book. And it didn’t even include the possible scenarios.
Another five pages of documents outline what would have to happen for each player in the 30-man field to win the Cup.
Call me old-fashioned, but I’m looking forward to watching the golf more than the computer screen.