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Bradley Looks to Build on Fantastic Year
Keegan Bradley's remarkable rookie year of is not over just quite yet. In his maiden season on the PGA Tour, the Vermont native broke through with his first win in the Byron Nelson Championship in May, beating Ryan Palmer in a playoff, and then took home one of the year's four major titles, the PGA Championship in August at Atlanta with yet another playoff victory.
In outscoring Jason Dufner in the PGA's three-hole aggregate playoff, the 25-year-old Bradley became only the third player in history to win a major in his first attempt, joining Francis Ouimet (1913 U.S. Open) and Ben Curtis (2003 British Open). In addition, Bradley became the first major winner using a long putter.
Capping his year to date, the nephew of LPGA Hall of Fame member Pat Bradley also won the season-ending Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda, out-dueling Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, U.S. Open winner Rory McIlroy and Claret Jug owner Darren Clarke.
Bradley earned $3,758,599 in winnings, ending up 13th on the season money list thanks to his two victories and total of four top-10 and 12 top-25 finishes in 28 events. Bradley is almost a shoo-in to be named the Tour's 2011 Rookie of the Year. The other nominees are Chris Kirk, Schwartzel, Scott Stallings, Brendan Steele and Jhonattan Vegas.
In recognition of his spectacular year, Bradley was given a cherished spot in the 2011 Chevron World Challenge, which starts Thursday at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The $5 million, 72-hole event, hosted by Tiger Woods, only has 18 players. (For the full field, visit http://www.pgatour.com/tournaments/r478/field.html.)
On Tuesday after a practice round, Bradley met with reporters and discussed his fine season as well as playing on the West Coast and what he expects this week in Tiger's tournament. Here's what the youngster had to say.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Keegan Bradley here at the Chevron World Challenge making his first appearance after just a phenomenal 2011 season. He wins at HP and also the PGA. Just some up the year for us, if you can.
KEEGAN BRADLEY: It was an unbelievable year I didn't quite expect, but it's just been to be able to enjoy a season and like I can coming to a tournament like this. And it's all been kind of a dream and a whirlwind, but I've been able to kind of sit back and enjoy what I've done and it's been awesome.
MODERATOR: What has been the biggest change in your life over the last few months?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: The biggest change is just kind of adjusting to being a PGA champion. People kind of know who I am a little more going to the course, having to do stuff like this. It's just kind of an adjustment to my regular routine that I've been so used to, but all of it is so worth it, and there isn't a day that goes by that I just don't I'm so happy that I'm on the PGA Tour and able to come to an event like this.
Q. Keegan, can you talk a little bit about just in the last year in terms of what were you did you watch this tournament last year? Did you imagine a year later you'd be sitting here in a field of 18 being one of the competitors and how far your career has come in the past year?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: Yeah. I've watched this tournament a bunch. I watched it every year pretty much. At the beginning of the year I would never have thought I'd be here playing. Before the PGA I wouldn't have thought I would have been here playing. But you know, it's just an honor for a player like me to be in a field like this with players like Tiger and Nick Watney and some of the guys. And it's just really cool. It's a fun experience for me, and I really, truly enjoy it.
Q. What do you take from this year into next year, and what were you most concerned about as far as your play this year that you'll work on in the off season?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: I got a lot that I can improve on in my golf game for next year. You can always improve your short game and chipping, wedges, stuff like that. But you know, this time around I'll be able to know more what I'm doing, picking my schedule, skip a few events, rest. But I'm so excited to get back out there because there are certain courses that I'm excited to have another shot at, and being able to go there the second year around not worried about my Tour card. At the beginning of the year I was freaking out about keeping my card in the reshuffle and stuff like that. So the West Coast to me is a swing that really fits my game, and I'm excited to get back out there.
Q. Do you know what part of your schedule is already?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: The only part of my schedule that's locked in is the first two Hawaii events, but I love that West Coast swing, so I'll be playing a lot on the West Coast.
Q. As an East Coast guy, why is that? A lot of the East Coast guys have a problem with poa. Why do you think you were able to thrive so much last year on the West Coast?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: I'm not totally sure. I grew up in Vermont. A lot of our greens were poa. It's something to do with the courses, the history like a Riviera and Pebble, and places like that. Just the courses just seem to fit me, and I really enjoy playing out there. They're just very classic courses, and it gets you excited about playing golf, I feel like, when you go to places like that.
Q. Keegan, what's sort of been the toughest adjustment for you with everything that's happened this year? Obviously a lot of good things have happened, but what's been hard to adjust to, and secondly, what kind of experiences stand out most to you in terms of things on the course or away from the course, that sort of thing?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: Yeah, the toughest adjustment for me personally is kind of I'm very I pride myself on being very well prepared for every event that I play in, and it's just there's a lot more that I have to do at a tournament week, like something like this or, you know, like a photo shoot or something for a company. That's been my biggest adjustment, and but you know, I'm starting to get used to it now. I think back to the days when I just could kind of show up and do my thing, and I kind of miss it a little bit, but all this is worth it, and I really enjoy doing this stuff now and being amongst the boys.
Q. Can you talk about that quick turnaround from the Sony to the Hope and getting all the courses in and how the changes might affect players' willingness to play the Hope next year with the extra day between the two events and fewer courses and that kind of stuff?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: Yeah, I think it's very smart that they managed to do that to their tournament, and I think it's just going to attract more players to play. Coming here excites me about playing on the West Coast, and it just reminds me of the Hope; it reminds me of these other tournaments. I think what they did is brilliant. I think it's really going to help the tournament, and I know the players think it's a big help. So I think it's good.
KEEGAN BRADLEY: Yeah. Last year I flew out a couple days early before I went to Sony and played those courses and then came back from Sony and played once and then played, and it's a miracle because I came in seventh there, and I kind of locked myself into that reshuffle. And I think that that was a huge part of why I play well on that West Coast.
Q. We always hear about players who win a major and then so much gets thrown at them, opportunities to chase appearance fee money, all kinds of things. You can end of running yourself ragged. How have you found that to be and how have you managed it?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: You know, there is a lot that comes with winning a major and winning any tournament, actually. But luckily enough I love to play golf, and I got a great group of guys looking over me at Gaylord Sports, and they would never allow me to get into a weird situation. I could see it happening, though. There's so many events you can play in the off season; it's not even really an off season anymore. It's just another tour basically, and I was lucky enough to go over is to China and experience that. It's a good experience.
Q. Keegan, there's a lot of talk about athleticism out on the Tour, more and more guys like yourself and Gary Woodland that come from other sports or did other sports. Can you give me some examples of where your athleticism has given you an edge or helped you in your development in terms of being able to come out as quickly as you have on the golf course?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: I think golf you're going to see that more and more. Some of the best athletes are going to be golfers; like it's happened now, Gary Woodland, Jamie Lovemark, these guys are phenomenal athletes. I think if you're athletic, you can pick things up easier, maybe a swing change or, you know, a style of putting, the belly putter, chipping. I think it's just something that comes in and athletes enjoy that aspect of making the change and working on it. I know I do, and I think it's a huge help in playing good golf.
Q. Growing up did you play much golf with Pat?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: Yeah. I played a bunch with Pat, actually. And I still do. Not as much anymore because I'm out on Tour, but we talk all the time, and I've learned a lot from the way she plays, and more on the mental side than on the physical side, but yeah, I talk to her a lot.
Q. Was there a time when you said, wow, I beat her? Do you remember that?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: I remember this one time, I figured I'd beat her for the first time. I do specifically remember it. I remember being pretty happy about it. But I swear to you, I can't think of many other times I've beat her. I mean this is just messing around. I'm sure she probably wouldn't have counted it, but she can still play some really good golf. Put her on the proper tees and she'd be tough to beat.
Q. I know you do some work with Jim McLean, and I was wondering, when did you need him and how did that relationship start and what are some of the things over the few years you've worked with him that you've worked on?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: Yeah. Jim has been a huge part of my success to get here. My roommate, Jon Curran, who played on the Vanderbilt golf team; we went to high school together, he worked with him, and you know, I got to know him through my roommate, John. And I met with him two and a half years ago, and three weeks after I worked with him I won a Hooters Tour event and I just kind of went like this from then. We work on very simple stuff. I can't get technical. You see a lot of guys out here that get very technical. I can't do that. I gotta be very alignment, ball position, stuff like that, stuff that you don't have to think about.
Q. You talked about the rich history of tournaments like Riviera, Pebble Beach. There is this feeling that the West Coast events are a best under siege because of the big money events elsewhere. What is your take on that? Are they endangered species?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: You know, guys are looking to play overseas more than they used to for sure. I personally love the West Coast so much. I love playing the PGA Tour, and it's a swing that I'll probably look forward to throughout my whole career just because I love California. I love the courses. Like you said, the history, Riviera with Ben Hogan. And when I think of the PGA Tour, for whatever reason I think of that West Coast swing, and coming back here kind of reminds me of that. I was a true rookie then and it's cool to think back about that now.
Q. You notice here like no one won more than twice, no real domination, that kind of thing. Is that something you see next year kind of continuing for years to come?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: I think so, yeah. I think that there's so many good players out here now and that are coming even behind us that it's going to be tough for somebody to go win a bunch of tournaments in a row. Granted, it could definitely happen, Tiger and Phil and Dustin and all these guys. But I think it's so good for the game. I think it's good to see guys winning tournaments that you haven't ever heard of maybe even, like a guy like Webb who's had could've been the best year of anybody last here. He was in Q School three years ago, and it's just really cool. It really shows guys are working really hard out here to get better.
Q. You had a really successful time on the Nationwide Tour, but not anywhere near what you've done this past year on the PGA Tour. Did something click? What is it about the things that have allowed you to kind of escalate your game at this level?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: You know, a big moment in my career was getting my caddie, Pepsi, Steve Hale. Ever since we kind of got together my first event with him I came in I had a Top 10 in Texas. When I think about it, it's really the only thing that's changed drastically. I mean Dr. Bob Rotella and Jim McLean are a huge part of it, but Peps was so strong for me at the Nelson, and especially at the PGA, that I can't think of winning a golf tournament without him now and that was a huge part of it.
Q. What did he do specifically for you? Is it just taking your mind off things, keeping you focused? What does he do that's been able to allow you to be more successful?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: He's a guy that I can hang out. Most of all, he's very professional. He's very well prepared. I trust him more than anything. I'm a very conservative player and he's more of an aggressive player. He'd like to hit driver everywhere, and I think that kind of fits in perfectly. You know, he gives so much faith and so much belief in me that I can feel it on the course, and I just know that he's going to do what's best for me, and I just trust him.
MODERATOR: Mid season assessment of the Patriots before we close?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: I think they look pretty good. I'm not worried about them at all. I'm excited to see that the Celtics have to play again, though.
MODERATOR: Keegan, we appreciate your time. Good luck this week.
KEEGAN BRADLEY: Thanks.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.