ATLANTA – Only one month earlier, Keegan Bradley’s trip to this city had produced an unforgettable memory, one that could have been considered improbable. A triumph in his first-ever major championship? Overcoming a five-stroke deficit on the final three holes of regulation? Things like that, well, you just don’t figure they’re going to happen.
Funny thing is, Bradley’s trip to Atlanta a month later produced a perfect storm of sorts at the opposite end of the spectrum – and for that, he is sorely disappointed.
“If I’m not on the (Presidents Cup) team, I’ll be devastated,” Bradley said late Sunday after closing with a 70 to finish T-11 at the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club. “But at the same time, I didn’t earn my way onto the team.”
As Bradley talked, he understood what was going on out on the golf course. To many, Bradley was considered the front-runner for the 12th and final pick. A strong performance could only enhance his standing in captain Fred Couples’ eyes and perhaps the biggest thing that could have swayed the decision was a very strong tournament by Bill Haas.
Sure enough, as Bradley spoke his words of discouragement, Haas was pouring the foundation for a stirring victory.
“Good for him, because he was under a lot of pressure,” Bradley said, confirming that he, too, felt the enormity of things. “I was really, really nervous before I played this week and that’s unusual for me.”
Certainly, captain’s picks always come under scrutiny, but this was a special case for two reasons. One, Couples more than a month ago confirmed that one of his two choices was going to Tiger Woods, even though the former No. 1 has been a shell of himself for two years. And two, Couples’ assistant was Jay Haas, Billy’s father.
Asked if felt that he, too, had been thrust into an awkward position, Jay Haas smiled after watching his son win at East Lake.
“Nobody said anything to me. Nobody said, ‘Are you going to pull a fast one. Nothing like that,’ “ Jay Haas said.
But he’s been through this sort of stuff before, as a player. In 2004 he was one of Hal Sutton’s captain’s pick to the Ryder Cup team. In 2009, as an assistant to Couples, he endorsed the choice of Lucas Glover as a captain’s pick, given that Glover had won the U.S. Open.
But Jay Haas insists that he is not involved in this year’s captain’s pick, which Couples will announce Tuesday. (International Team captain Greg Norman will announce his two picks, widely believed to be Aussies Aaron Baddeley and Robert Allenby.) In fact, Jay Haas said he doesn’t believe that there should be captain’s picks, that teams should be picked from Nos. 1-12 in the standings.
“Jack (Nicklaus) and Arnold (Palmer) did it that way a few times,” Haas said.
True enough, but it’s hard to imagine that they will ever do away with captain’s picks, so what we’re going through right now is something we’ll re-live a year from now when Davis Love III and Jose Maria Olazabal round out their Ryder Cup teams. So it appears that what we had Sunday at East Lake is something we’ll have in the future, a veritable try-out with everything on the line.
Jay Haas accepts that, but it still makes him uncomfortable.
“If there was an audition between (Bill Haas) and Brandt (Snedeker) and Keegan, you would think (Bill) won the audition,” Jay Haas said. “It’s a shame it was one week. What are you going to do?”
What Bradley is going to do is accept whatever decision Couples makes, then go on with an enjoyable reflection of a brilliant rookie campaign.
“I’m definitely going to take a breath, sit back and relax, and enjoy (the next few weeks),” he said. If Couples goes with Bill Haas, “it was not meant to be.”
A roar was heard in the background and it was confirmed that Haas’ lead had grown to three with three holes to play. Bradley smiled and if that meant his Presidents Cup chances were lessened, so be it. He had another thought on his mind.
“I hope this isn’t my best year,” Bradley said, “because I know I’m going to contend for a lot of other teams.”