DUBLIN, Ohio – Mother’s Day was almost three weeks ago. On the calendar anyway, as if every day isn’t. A week later, Keegan Bradley’s mother, Kaye, was merely among the countless female parents having yet another influential day.
Bradley had just tied for 29th at the HP Byron Nelson Championship and was distraught that he putted “really poorly.” So when he called and talked to his mom, a recreational golfer, she spoke her mind.
“I’m going to tell you something,” she said. “I don’t think you’re going to like it.”
“All right,” the son said.
“I think you should use the short putter,” she advised.
He not only listened, he acted.
“I thought I needed something to get me excited about playing because I was bummed,” Bradley said.
So he put aside the belly putter, which he has used for 4 1/2 years, and pulled out a conventional-length flatstick that he got in January. With club anchoring set to be banned in 2016, his original plan had been to try the short putter in competition after the Ryder Cup this fall.
Until mom weighed in.
He not only brought out the new club last week, he did so often in famous company. Bradley used it exclusively while playing 36 holes a day with fellow Jupiter, Fla., resident Michael Jordan.
“I told (Jordan) I really wanted him to chirp at me, make me feel uncomfortable, which he’s good at,” Bradley said. “We just kept playing and playing. And I felt better and better with it.”
To the point he decided to put it into play Thursday in the first round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
How did he do? His words say, “Very well.” His numbers support that. He shot a 5-under 67 that put him one stroke off the early lead. He took 28 putts, converting from 13, 8, 7, 6 and 5 (twice) feet.
This, of course, is golf and tomorrow is another day. Bradley knows that. Hence he wants people to know this: “I’m totally in a trial period here. I’m not in any way saying I’m switching for good from now on.”
After all, he hasn’t performed poorly with the belly putter this season. He ranks 44th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained-putting and 39th in total putting. But he likes what he sees so far with the short stick. And what he feels.
“I feel as though I have a lot more touch,” he said. “I can hit softer putts. And my long lag putts are a ton easier.”
As for the negatives, there is is only one so far.
“Mentally I’m aware that people are watching me,” he said. “That’s the hardest part.”
Bradley said he had hoped to go under the radar with the new weapon. That way he wouldn’t have to explain if he were to change back. But there was no chance of hiding it in golf’s biggest fish bowl.
He didn’t explain why Kaye thought it was a good idea to switch. But he’s happy about the effect her suggestion had on him mentally.
“Once I started thinking about it,” he said, “I got more and more excited to go practice and get up in the morning and work.”
That apparently has only increased. Shooting 67 has a way of pushing the vibe along.