Golf

Bob Gillespie

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Ready to defend: 2011 PGA winner Keegan Bradley prepares for The Ocean Course

Posted 8/4/2012 9:15:00 AM

Keegan Bradley made all sorts of history in 2011 when he captured the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club. Not only did he win in his first career appearance in a major, but he also was the first major winner to use a controversial long or “belly” putter – setting the stage for wins this year by Webb Simpson (U.S. Open) and Ernie Els (British Open), both also users of the belly model.

The affable Vermont native, nephew of LPGA Hall of Famer Pat Bradley, hasn’t looked back in 2012 – until recently. He appeared and played the Ocean Course during the PGA’s media day this spring, after which he hit golf balls from the deck of the retired aircraft carrier U.S.S. Yorktown to help promote this year’s tournament.

And on July 30, he sat down for a press conference at TPC Boston, near his old high school, as a stand-in for 2011 Deutsche Bank Championship winner Simpson, whose wife had a baby over the weekend.

The reason for the gathering was this year’s Deutsche Bank, part of the FedExCup playoffs, but Bradley naturally fielded questions about his upcoming PGA defense and Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, the tournament host. Here are selected questions and answers from that press conference:

Q: Can you just talk about the PGA Championship coming up? I know you've had a look at the course. Your impressions of the course and then just the grueling stretch you have coming up with the last major of the year, a World Golf Championships and the Playoffs?

A: Kiawah is an unbelievable golf course. I think it's going to be very difficult, especially if the weather, the wind kicks up, obviously right on the ocean there.

I love when I'm playing a lot on the PGA TOUR. So you know, going to Akron and the PGA and then having the Playoffs is great for me, because you can kind of get on a little bit of a run or a little roll. And being able to know that I'm going back up to the northeast and playing in New York, and especially Boston, in the next month – (that) makes it even more exciting.

Q: If you could look back to your win in the PGA Championship last year, it actually came at Jason Dufner's expense, but he's certainly had a very good year. Just wondering, out and about on TOUR, do you reminisce what happened last year and what's happened in your lives, his good fortune and yours, too?

A: It's pretty neat that at the time when we were in that playoff, everyone was saying how we were both such no-names and how it's too bad the tournament didn't have big names in there. But as it turns out, Jason Dufner has had arguably the best year of anybody this year. He's playing great golf.

You know, we don't really reminisce that much, but we definitely have a bond together that we'll have forever. I'm so happy to see Jason play well this year and win tournaments, because he's such a great player. I'm glad that people are seeing it.

Q: In a week from now, you're going to get your first opportunity to defend a major championship; can you talk about that, and the next month heading into the Playoffs is huge, but how are you preparing differently than you did in the past?

A: I'm not preparing any differently. I'm trying to do the exact same stuff. I'm down here playing with all my buddies, and another New Englander, Jon Curran, who played this morning. We are just doing the same stuff that I always did. The biggest key is to keep everything constant, what I've always done.

I feel as though I'm doing that. And about this time last year, is when I really started to get it rolling, and I went on about a six- or seven-month stretch of great golf. I love these golf courses at the end of the year. I love the atmosphere of major championships and the Playoffs and the Deutsche Bank. It's just an exciting time of the year.

Q: Do you ever pinch yourself on how you won the PGA, and have things changed that much for you? Obviously you have more commitments, but how have you tried to handle everything and how have things been different?

A: Yeah, it does seem sometimes like a dream. I'm not able to watch the replays of the PGA. I get too nervous.

So part of me is amazed that it happened. I think back on it, and I think about how different my life would be if I didn't win that PGA or if I lost that playoff. It's kind of a brutal thing to think about.

But life has changed a lot in terms of at golf tournaments. It's not changed at all off the golf course with my buddies and my friends. I enjoy all that comes with winning major championships and tournaments, but I try to keep everything the same. There are specific things that have changed dramatically, but I try to keep my life the same. I mean, I'm the same kid that grew up in Boston and Vermont that I am now.

Q: Having won your first major last year; have you set your goals on other majors … and how do you find the rest of the field at this time in order to accomplish something like that and add more PGAs and more majors?

A: You know, my main goal at the start of this year was to contend more in tournaments, and I think I've done that. The feeling of winning a major is something that's the most unbelievable feeling, and as a player, you crave that.

So I really want to focus in on contending and winning majors. I mean, it was a tough year for me because of playing in my first Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and now I've got that behind me. I think the next go around of all those majors, I'll be able to really start focusing in on contending and playing well, because I think they all suit my game pretty well.

It's just a matter of staying focused and keep up doing everything that you did to win the PGA, and I think I've been doing that.