Keegan Bradley's game has peaked at the perfect time to defend his PGA Championship.
By STEVE EUBANKSFS South
Kiawah Island, SC — It’s always hard to repeat.
The last college football team to successfully defend a national title was Nebraska in 1994 and 1995. The last NFL team was the Patriots in 2004 and 2005.
Knowing the last golfer to successfully defend a major might win you a free plate in chicken wings at trivia night. It was Padraig Harrington who won the British Open in 2007 and 2008.
So, the fact that Keegan Bradley, the blue-eyed prototypical tour pro, is defending champ at this week’s PGA Championship normally wouldn’t mean much. Only one guy since World War II has successfully defended this title. His name was Tiger Woods.
But Bradley is notable entering the week, and not just because he served surf and turf with Maine lobster and filet mignon at the Tuesday night champion’s dinner.
He also won last week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, which, by default, makes him the hottest player in the field entering the season’s final major.
And it’s not just the fact that he won, but how he won that makes Bradley worth watching. He poured in one putt after another in a final round at fabled Firestone Country Club to shoot 64, one better than Jim Furyk, who collapsed on the last hole with a double-bogey to lose by one.
Bradley became only the 11th man to win a major and a WGC event.
“It’s a couple of different emotions,” Bradley said in his pre-tournament press conference. “One, (winning last week) frees me up a little bit. I’m not worried about (making) the Ryder Cup (team). And anytime you win, it’s a great feeling. There’s a little less pressure now.
“On the other hand, there’s a lot more pressure now, playing well, coming back to the PGA. I’ve got a great course here that I feel suits me very well, and I want to defend my title as best I can. But I think overall winning is going to help me free up a little bit this week.”
Winning any title in golf is hard, especially when 155 other guys tee off with the same ambitions. But, like baseball, golf is a game of streaks. Players get on rolls and win a couple of times in a month (Rory McIlroy earlier in the year and Jason Dufner in the spring).
Bradley hadn’t won since the PGA last year, but as he said immediately after the victory in Akron, “my biorhythms are right this time of year.”
This week he’s taking a slightly more analytical approach.
“I think my game from last year is a lot better,” he said. “You know, I’ve always set out to be the best player I can be, and I really feel as though I want to be one of the best players in the world. As a golfer, there’s always something to play for, whether you are trying to make a Ryder Cup team or trying to make the President’s Cup team, get in the top 10 in the world, No.1 in the world; there’s always something.”
Becoming only the second man in the last 70 years to repeat as PGA Champion would be something.
Bradley knows that. And after last week, he appears to be ready.