East Lake Golf Club isn’t exactly The Last Frontier, but it’s far enough away from Boston for Keegan Bradley. The New England golfer said before his quick departure from the Deutsche Bank Championship that the pressures of playing before a hometown crowd made him long to play in the anonymity of Sarah Palin’s former stomping grounds.
Enough home cooking. “I wouldn’t mind if my next tournament was in Northern Alaska,” Bradley said, half-jokingly, after his opening-round 68 at TPC Boston that followed a week of hopping from Fenway Park to Gillette Stadium, and making the rounds of sports talk radio in The Hub.
The Vermont native, who teed it up front of scores of family and friends in the second of four FedEx Cup events, struggled to a second-round 76 and missed the cut. Despite an MC at The Barclays in Edison, N.J., as well, the PGA champ had already punched his ticket to this week’s Tour Championship, where his first-round 6-under 64 on Thursday gave the Hopkinton (Mass.) High School alum the lead heading into Friday’s second round.
It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster ride for the 25-year-old who became the first golfer with a long putter to win a major championship. Since hoisting the PGA hardware in mid-August, Bradley missed the aforementioned cuts and carded a 1-under (T16) at last week’s BMW Championship. Not exactly the stuff of champions, but the nephew of LPGA Hall of Famer Pat Bradley would not change a thing about the whirlwind of his last month-plus.
“No, I wouldn’t have done anything differently [since the PGA],” the graduate of St. John’s University in New York told reporters Thursday. “It just so happened that the next two events were basically in my two hometowns, and that was just kind of bad luck.
“Good luck, too,” Bradley quickly added. “It was fun to go back home and play in front of everybody, but there was nothing I could do about that. I’ve been wanting to throw out the first pitch at Fenway my whole life, [New England Patriots quarterback] Tom Brady is my hero, I got to go on the field. I wouldn’t have passed that up for anything.”
But tossing the ceremonial first pitch before a Red Sox-Yankees game and flipping the coin to kick off a Patriots pre-season game was in Bradley’s rear-view mirror as he navigaged his way around the fairways in Atlanta. Indeed, Bradley was playing for more than just the long-shot chance of pocketing the $10 million bonus that awaits the winner of the FedEx Cup.
Prior to Thursday, Deutsche Bank champ Webb Simpson had overshadowed Bradley as a favorite to pick up Player of the Year honors. His nearly flawless (one bogey, seven birdies) opening round, however, put Bradley back in that discussion and he hoped to be named Rookie of the Year as well.
Playing for Prez Cup. And then there was the Presidents Cup. Fred Couples, captain of the U.S. team, has said that Bradley was one of the three “obvious” choices for his second of two wild-card picks, the first of which he used on Tiger Woods. Bradley was acutely aware of the situation.
“Literally probably every third hole or maybe even less it pops into my mind,” said Bradley. “I really want to be on the team, but I want to earn my way onto the team just like I’m going to have to. If the captain and assistant captains think I’ve done enough to get on the team, they’re going to pick me. And if they don’t, that’s totally fair, too.”
As for Bradley’s beloved Red Sox, who are 4-14 since Bradley missed the Deutsche Bank cut on September 3, the diehard BoSox fan continued to believe in the Old Town Team’s post-season prospects.
“I was able to watch a little bit of the game last night [a 6-4 loss to the lowly Baltimore Orioles], and it’s not looking good,” Bradley said. “I think it’s going to be close.”
With the Red Sox about to start a three-game set with American League East Division winners Yankees, Boston fans have to give Bradley a better chance at a playoff win than Terry Francona’s slumping baseballers.