ORLANDO, Fla. – Keegan Bradley made a move in Saturday’s third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a 6-under 66. It bumped him from eight shots back of second-round leader Justin Rose to four shots behind third-round leader Tiger Woods. It also gave him a much later tee time.
Bradley, 26, had been around the Champions course at Bay Hill only three times in competition. He played those rounds in 13 over, and that includes rounds of 78-77 at last year’s Arnold Palmer and a 74 in Thursday’s first round. Bradley shot 69 on Friday and 66 on Saturday.
“You’ve got to stay really patient on this course because it can beat you up a little bit,” Bradley said after a round that included eight birdies. “But you have to hit the ball on the fairway, and I did that today.”
Bradley hit all 14 fairways on Saturday and 25 of 28 in the past two rounds, but the key to lower scores the past two days may have been his new putter.
After his last victory, at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August, the PGA champion broke his putter while simply walking alone in a practice round and heard the head drop off onto the ground. The new putter, the same model, never felt like the old one, which he had used his entire professional career.
Bradley was introduced to an Odyssey Versa Sabertooth this week, and it seems to be a perfect fit. (Click here to watch Alex Miceli’s ToyBox90 episode that describes the switch)
“This putter, as soon as I grabbed it, felt like my old putter,” Bradley said. “I don’t switch putters hardly ever, but this is the same putter. It just feels a little better to me.”
With the driver clicking and a total of just 56 putts in the past two days, Bradley is poised to make a run this week, or perhaps when he makes the trip down Magnolia Lane in a few weeks.
But Bradley has a secret weapon in M.J., also known as Michael Jordan.
Jordan was one of the toughest competitors in professional athletics, and Bradley has built a friendship with the Basketball Hall of Famer that includes playing golf together and exchanging text messages. Bradley got some additional encouragement from Jordan on Friday night.
“I was talking to M.J. a bunch this off?season, and he was telling me to play much more cocky,” Bradley said. “I’m learning through him what the mental side of what he was thinking, and that’s a big help to me.”
Bradley will be tested on Sunday as Tiger Woods chases an eighth victory at Bay Hill. Still, Bradley likes his chances.
“This course is going to be tough with heavy winds, but I kind of like it when it’s a little nasty.”