Monday, January 5, 2015

Keegan Bradley

Keegan Bradley has a lot of qualities that make him relatable to the average person. He grew up in modest surroundings living in a trailer with his father Mark, an assistant golf pro at the Portsmouth Country Club in New Hampshire. His first sporting love as a kid was that of a ski racer which twice earned Bradley all-state honors.

He knew that if he was going to see his dad it would be at the golf course. As a kid he hung out at whatever facility his dad was employed at becoming what we in the golf business describe as “a golf course rat.” Bradley improved as a junior golfer, but was labeled as the third-best player on his high school team which landed him an opportunity at St. John’s University, known more for basketball and baseball than golf.
“I remember racing in a ski event in Vermont late one winter. It was warm and kind of rainy. By skiing standards it was a very miserable day,” recalled Bradley. “That was the day I went home and told my dad that I wanted to be a golfer, not a skier.”

After a solid collegiate career where he won nine tournaments Bradley turned pro. He scraped it around on the developmental tours for three seasons and eventually made it to the PGA Tour in 2011 when he was named Rookie of the Year. In that rookie season Bradley made history when he won the PGA Championship joining Francis Ouimet and Ben Curtis as the third player to win a major championship in his first attempt. Maybe more significant was the fact that Bradley became the first golfer to win a major using a long putter.

“No one even mentioned the fact that I used a long putter in any of the interviews I did after I won the PGA. Would a rules’ change would take place? No chance. It was still a fad although the public started using it more,” said Bradley. “Then Webb (Simpson) won the U.S. Open and Ernie (Els) won the British Open and the USGA and R&A decided to change the Rule.”
On January 1, 2016 it will no longer be “legal” to anchor a long putter much to the dismay of a handful of touring professionals and scores of recreational amateurs. Bradley has been forced to adapt and he views this season as career defining.

“Knowing that this is coming has been a challenge. It’s been pretty scary. It’s going to be dramatically different and I would be lying if I said I hadn’t been affected by the stress of knowing the change is being forced on me,” says Bradley. “I spent a lot of time perfecting this method and now it’s all down the drain.”
But, Bradley who started anchoring a long putter in 2009 because it “just felt good” is confident that he can overcome the change and continue his successful career as a player. By his own admission he purposely waited until after the Ryder Cup in September to make a serious attempt at changing his putting style. Last month at the Hero World Challenge, Bradley used a 38.5 inch Scotty Cameron Futura X5 Dual Balance putter. His putter head is 50 grams heavier than a standard length putter.

There is also 50 grams of added weight under the top portion of the grip which tends to take the hands and wrists out of the stroke while keeping the putter head on the ideal path. This qualifies Bradley’s putter as a “counterbalanced” model which is what every recreational player who is currently anchoring should consider.
“My first advice to the recreational golfers who now anchor is just figure out how to keep enjoying the game. Try to transition gradually and when you make the switch, have a bunch of different options available,” said Bradley.

Those options would include cutting down the current long putters that are in their golf bags. According to Bradley that will allow them to have heavier putters and the counterbalanced grip can always be installed, which saves the cost of a new putter. That’s the common side of Keegan Bradley helping the average guy save some bucks.

What does separate Bradley from the Average Joe is his $14.1 million in PGA Tour career earnings along with his three Tour wins including the PGA Championship. From 2012-’14 he has two Ryder Cup berths and a spot on the President’s Cup team. Bradley’s violent fist pumps and fixating eyes became the face of the U.S. Ryder Cup team at Medinah.

Bradley has his opinions on the future of the Ryder Cup. “We should talk through all facets. Phil and Tiger have played in a lot of Ryder Cups, but haven’t won many. We should listen to their thoughts on a Captain,” said Bradley.  “I would like to see a Captain like Freddie (Couples) who is super relaxing. He keeps the atmosphere loose and people have fun. It’s a matter of being relaxed,” offered Bradley, a veteran of sorts, but still a kid to many at 28 years old.

Bradley pals around and plays golf with Michael Jordan at his winter home in Jupiter, FL. He is said to have over 50 pairs of Air Jordans in his closet. According to Bradley, Jordan loses a lot and that means many nice dinners for Keegan and his girflfriend.

Bradley is an avid fan of all teams Boston. In casual settings he can almost always be seen wearing a Red Sox cap. He has said that his dream foursome includes his father, Ben Hogan and Tom Brady, quarterback of the New England Patriots. He relishes practice rounds and big money games with Phil Mickelson. His best friend on the PGA Tour is Jason Dufner.

Here’s the thing. All of you long putters who have adopted “Anchors Aweigh” as your theme song for 2015. Keegan Bradley is your guy.  

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