Tiger Woods walked across the putting green at Sherwood Country Club on a dreary Thursday afternoon, and Keegan Bradley was ready for him.
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“Hey, Tiger, the boys want to see you use this,” Bradley said mischievously, pointing to his belly putter.
“Pfft!” said Woods, “You need to cut that thing down.”
It was a good-natured exchange, reflecting the ribbing Bradley’s been getting from his peers since golf’s ruling bodies announced on Wednesday that anchoring a putter — as he does — likely will be outlawed in 2016.
But not all the feedback’s been so gentle.
“I had a guy yesterday telling me (on Twitter) to send my application in to Burger King for 2016,” said Bradley.
As if a 26-year-old who’s won a major and was a Ryder Cup star this year suddenly would be asking if you wanted fries with that order if it wasn’t for his belly putter.
Suffice to say, Bradley wasn’t lacking for motivation at the 18-man World Challenge, shooting an opening 3-under-par 69 that left him tied for second, two strokes behind Nick Watney.
“It always feels good to play well, but this feels better,” he said.
Bradley hit 17 of 18 greens and, ironically, didn’t putt very well, taking 33 strokes on the greens.
“I two-putted a couple of times for birdie, only other putts I made were tap-ins,” he said.
“Just because you have (a belly putter) doesn’t mean you’re going to make every putt. I think that the public sees it like that, and that’s unfair.”
Bradley’s clearly bothered by the implication that by continuing to use an anchored putter — which he plans to do in the immediate future — he’s doing something wrong.
“I feel like the USGA has really put an X on our back and really shined a light on us, and I don’t know if that’s exactly fair,” he said.
“I just hope that people look at us for the type of players that we are and the accomplishments that we’ve had and not (look negatively) because we use a belly putter.
“When we started putting with it, they were legal, and they still are.
“It’s a sticky situation, and I hope people can see through that.”
Bradley’s feisty by nature, so he’s not taking criticism on the chin, even if it’s been playful taunting by his peers.
“I finally had enough of it on the putting green the other day,” he said.
“I was putting with Tiger and I grabbed Tiger’s putter and all of a sudden I see everyone start to walk around and start to look.
“I took his putter, which is about the opposite of what I putt with; it’s upright, it’s light, it’s a blade, and I made three out of four putts from 10 feet.
“So I made sure to remind those guys every time I see them that I made those putts.”
Bradley said he switched to the belly putter five years ago because it worked better for him, but noted that he’s still in the middle-of-the-pack in putting statistics on the Tour.
He also said he putted well enough to win his first professional event — on a mini-tour — with a conventional putter.
“It was just a matter of I just really like the other putter better for me, personally,” he said.
“It wasn’t that I was a bad putter or any of that nonsense.”
Bradley said he’d use the whole brouhaha as motivation going forward.
“Throughout my whole career, I didn’t get really recruited (for college), and no one thought I was any good, and it’s kind of what motivated me,” he said.
“I keep trying to tell myself, maybe this is a sign I’m going to switch to a better way of putting.”
All that was left to be asked was how Woods — who opened his title defense here with a spotty 2-under par round of 70 — did putting with Bradley’s belly putter?
“You don’t want to see Tiger putt with that putter,” he said with a laugh.
“If it was up to me, I’d film him and send that to (USGA executive director) Mike Davis.