5 Things: Bradley moves out of his aunt's shadow

Keegan Bradley hits his tee shot on the second playoff hole during the final round of the 93rd PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club on August 14, 2011 in Johns Creek, Georgia.
Keegan Bradley hits his tee shot on the second playoff hole during the final round of the 93rd PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club on August 14, 2011 in Johns Creek, Georgia. ( Getty Images )

Monday, August 15, 2011

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Five takeaways from the 93rd PGA Championship:

1. Legit performance: There’s a lot to like about newly minted PGA champ Keegan Bradley - certainly more than just his macho game. He’s personable, polite, funny, levelheaded. He’s one of the straightest long-drivers on Tour, and he has a short memory (remember his final round in Akron?), and he wields that belly putter as well as anyone, and his rally on the back nine Sunday at Atlanta Athletic Club was an exhibition in both grit and doggedness. After holding off the strongest field in golf, can we finally stop referring to Keegan as Pat Bradley’s nephew?

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2. Tiger troubles: Rounds of 77-73 last week in Atlanta sent Tiger Woods into an offseason of uncertainty. He hasn’t won on any tour since November 2009. He didn’t qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs. He may not compete again for months. But Woods, at least publicly, sounded optimistic about his future, saying that, now that he’s healthy, he’ll be able to put in the necessary practice time with instructor Sean Foley. That’s a good thing. Right now, his swing is a mess.

Woods needs to refine his action, yes, but he also needs tournament reps. Trouble is, he seems unlikely to play a Fall Series event, lest he underperforms. What if he misses the cut in Vegas, or in Sea Island, or at Disney? Every start will be scrutinized. Alas, there will be no definitive answers until 2012.

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3. Duff Man: Did Jason Dufner have a pulse Sunday at the PGA? He was the biggest flat-liner since Retief Goosen . . . until he reached the final holes. (Not to mention the most prolific club-waggler since Sergio in ’02.) Dufner salvaged bogey on the 15th after rinsing his tee shot, but his 4-iron approach into 16 cost him the tournament. Ahead by two, he hit what he called “probably the worst iron shot of the week,” and failed to get up-and-down from a greenside bunker. You need to play the final two holes at AAC with more than a one-shot cushion. Not even a flat-liner could survive without it.

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4. Site to behold: Atlanta Athletic Club was a perfect host for the PGA. Sure, some players complained about the bunkers. (Too much sand.) And sure, some players complained about the 18th. (Better as a par 5, not a par 4.) But the Highlands Course had the potential for both eagles and double bogeys - equal parts ecstasy and catastrophe. Just look at the menacing closing stretch. Just look at Tiger Woods’ scorecard from the second round: On the back nine Friday, he carded everything from 2-7. Ideal for a major-championship venue.

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5. Crazy game: Keegan Bradley, who entered the PGA ranked No. 108 in the world, becomes the seventh consecutive first-time major winner. He also snapped the Americans’ longest major drought at six. What does that say about the state of our game? Simply, that it’s more wide-open than ever. The PGA leaderboard was dotted with cagey veterans (Scott Verplank, for instance) and wide-eyed rookies (Brendan Steele, Bradley, etc.). The big names, the players we most expected to rise to the top by Sunday night, teased us, then fell back. Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk . . . they all had their chances. And they were outdone by a 25-year-old rookie who was playing in his first major. Improbable, to say the least.

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