Bradley (63) takes advantage of his second chance
NORTON, Mass. – Before we discuss the eagle, the seven birdies, the blistering round that roared him up the leaderboard, or the electricity he pumped into what figured to be a quiet, mundane Sunday morning at the start of third-round play at the Deutsche Bank Championship, let’s set the record straight: Keegan Bradley’s caddie didn’t lose faith in his man.
But Steve “Pepsi” Hale does concede he made an executive decision Saturday that backfired.
Having traveled to California to be with family members in the aftermath of his father-in-law’s death, Hale was unable to work the first two rounds of the Deutsche Bank Championship. But he and Bradley agreed that he’d take the Saturday night red-eye to Boston in time for Sunday’s third round. Only thing is, Hale caught a glimpse of Saturday’s second-round scores, saw that Bradley was 4 over for the tournament with just a few holes to play and since the cut figured to be 1 over, “I canceled my flight.”
Now he’s seen Bradley do remarkable things in a short period of time on the PGA Tour, so Hale knows he shouldn’t be surprised that a birdie-birdie finish got him to 2 over for the tournament. What did surprise Hale was this – the cut went from 1 over to 2 over and Bradley was one of 78 players to earn weekend spots.
Hello, airlines, cancel that cancellation, and re-book me.
Hale smiled when told that the airlines must love him, but the truth is, he was thrilled to land at 5:57 a.m. at Boston’s Logan Airport and be in attendance for what transpired on yet another brilliant late-summer day at TPC Boston. Starting at T-67, 2 over and 10 off the lead, Bradley in the fourth pairing hit a 197-yard shot to 7 feet and eagled the 547-yard, par-5 second to ignite an outward 31. When he birdied the par-4 10th and slam-dunked a 33-footer for birdie at the par-3 11th, he was 7 under on his round and suddenly the native New Englander had the sort of passionate gallery he is used to.
“The fans were so great,” said Bradley, who spent his senior year at Hopkinton High School, not 30 miles from TPC Boston, and was crushed when he missed the cut at the DBC a year ago, his first time as a pro playing in the area.
“It was really fun to be able to experience that for the first time in my (pro) career.”
When he failed to convert birdie rolls at the 12th, 13th, and 14th, the fire had seemingly gone out, but Bradley drained a 15-footer at the 15th and a 6-footer at the par-3 16th. His avid followers were into it, Bradley being just five off the lead, all of a sudden, and the drive at the par-4 17th was perfect, just 139 yards in.
“But it was his worst swing of the day,” Hale said of Bradley’s wedge from the fairway, well above the green. Pulling it slightly left, Bradley was in a bunker and had a difficult uphill lie against the lip. It led to his only bogey of the day, slowed his roll, but certainly the excitement was over. That’s because at the par-5 18th, Bradley took dead aim with his second shot, a downwind 7-iron from 217 yards.
The shot came out straight and high, but from the second he made contact, Bradley cringed. “He didn’t catch it,” Hale said.
Because he didn’t, the shot never carried far enough with the wind and when it came up short and caromed back into the hazard, Bradley dropped to his knees and held his head. The immediate pain is, on a hole that is playing so easy, the 18th, Bradley has yet to make a birdie. But the greater perspective is, he deftly got the drop up-and-down from 100 yards, shot 8-under 63, and when he signed his card for 6-under 207, Bradley had hurdled 55 players.
“It just goes to show you that you’ve always got to keep grinding and finish out the race because you never know what can happen.”
Just one day earlier, Bradley had gone out early, shot 73 and even the birdie-birdie finish left him in anguish.
“I cleaned out my locker, had already looked at flights,” Bradley said.
When at around dinner time he realized that 2-over 144 had indeed made the cut, back he came to TPC Boston to pound balls and work on his game. Though it was 7:15 p.m., nearly 11 hours since he had teed off, Bradley had a smile on his face as he made it through the parking lot to his courtesy car.
“I felt like I was lucky to be out here.”
Then again, luck is what you make of it and there’s no denying that Bradley took advantage. He credited a consultation Saturday evening with his swing coach, Jim McLean. “I sent him a few videos of my swing because it was honesly pretty violent the first two days,” Bradley said. “(It was) the most lost I’ve felt on the course in a long time.”
McLean’s help secured (“he just saw something in my upper body that looked a little weird,” Bradley said), the New Englander then got marching orders from his grandmother. “She told me she wanted me to shoot 63 today,” Bradley said. “So I was out there thinking I had a good chance to do that for her.”