KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Keegan Bradley will be without a reliable, old friend when he tries to defend his title this week.
His Odyssey XG Sabertooth mid-belly putter was injured during Tuesday’s practice round, and he’ll be wielding a new one once the competition starts Thursday.
Bradley was taking a leisurely walk up the ninth fairway, using his putter like a walking stick when it cracked at the “spud,” where the shaft meets the putter.
“I think it was a little hot from last week and just popped right off,” Bradley said jokingly.
It was impossible to repair, so Bradley had to go to a backup, which was made only last week. But before the end of the day, the Odyssey folks took the old shaft, cleaned it up and put on a new head.
Bradley had used the same putter for more than 2 1/2 years, going back to his Nationwide Tour days, and it was in his bag when he won this major a year ago. It was also with him last Sunday when he blitzed the back nine with four birdies to win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. But he insisted that he is comfortable with the new one.
OK, so what happens to the old putter head?
“I’m going to do something with it,” Bradley said. “It was good to me.”
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BACK ON THE BAG: Let’s see. Last time he teed it up in a major, the Open Championship in July, Ernie Els won. On his bag that day – as he had been for Els’ wins in three previous majors – was Ricci Roberts.
It was a bit surprising to some that Els then reported that he would go through with a rotation of caddies, putting former NHL player Dan Quinn on the bag for the RBC Canadian Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. There was even an indication that Quinn would remain on the bag throughout the rest of the summer, but no. Els will play in his 20th PGA Championship with Roberts, his trusty sidekick, on the bag.
Els said Roberts would be on the bag through the FedEx Cup playoffs.
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OH, THE IRONY: There was one down side to all those days spent with his father/instructor back home last week. Seems they shared a cart and it was too easy for Spencer Levin to misplace his clubs.
So when he got to the Ocean Course to begin his preparation for this PGA Championship, Levin checked his bag and realized his 8-iron was missing.
Don Levin said he called home, had his wife check his golf bag, and sure enough, there were two 8-irons.
A little overnight delivery should take care of that problem, but Don Levin had to laugh. “Wouldn’t you know it: Each of the first four holes we played (in Tuesday’s practice round), guess what we needed? The 8-iron.”
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CHANGE OF SCENERY: On PGA Championship Sunday last August, Mark Bradley was busy at work, organizing an annual members’ scramble at the Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club in Wyoming. At the end of his pre-tournament announcements, he told players that although he’d normally be there at the end, he wouldn’t on this day.
They all understood why. Bradley was going to be sequestered in his condo, watching son Keegan chase down a possible PGA Championship victory.
Keegan Bradley, of course, won that battle at the Atlanta Athletic Club, but his father will not have to watch the title defense on TV. Mark Bradley is in the audience this year, but his attendance is made easier by the fact that he decided to step down as head professional. Instead, Bradley’s title at Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club is director of instruction, a job that offers a bit more flexibility and offers him the chance to travel and watch his son play.
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CONSPIRACY, IT ISN’T: When the pairings were announced at the end of last week, it was noteworthy to some that Phil Mickelson was alongside Davis Love III. Almost immediately, the conspiracists went to work and came up with this: Love, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, asked to be paired with Mickelson to get a sense of where the left-hander’s game is.
Mickelson has fallen to No. 8 in the Ryder Cup standings, meaning he’s barely holding on to the final automatic berth. Is it an indicator that something is wrong? Or is it a funk that the veteran is sure to shake? There are those who theorize that Love would have a better idea by watching up close and personal.
But Kerry Haigh, the managing director of championships and business development for the PGA of America, brushed that suggestion aside.
“We don’t take any player requests for pairings of any kind,” Haigh said.
The PGA of America is consistent with its desire to pair former champions for the first two days, and, indeed, Mickelson (2005) and Love (1997) fit the bill, as does the third member of the group, Padraig Harrington (2008).