AKRON, Ohio (Reuters) - Keegan Bradley’s drama-laden victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday gave him a timely confidence boost for his PGA Championship title defence this week, though it also sounded one alarm bell.
Twice before, Bradley has triumphed on the PGA Tour but on both occasions he performed poorly in his very next start.
After clinching his maiden title at last year’s Byron Nelson Championship, he missed the cut at the Memorial Tournament the following week. Two months later, he followed his PGA Championship win with a missed cut at the Barclays tournament.
“I think it does make it a little harder in terms of my record after I’ve won a tournament isn’t that great,” Bradley said of his thoughts on the season’s final major following his one-shot triumph at Firestone Country Club.
“But again, I’ve learned how to handle it. I’ve learned what to do after you win a tournament and I’ll be in touch with a lot of guys. I’ll be in touch with Phil (Mickelson), and I’ll speak to him, and my aunt Pat.”
Bradley, a nephew of LPGA great and World Golf Hall of Famer Pat Bradley, initially met Mickelson during his rookie campaign on the PGA Tour last year and since then has been mentored by the four-times major winner.
“I remember after I won Nelson and I missed the cut terribly at Memorial, I asked her (Pat Bradley) if she’d ever won back-to-back tournaments,” Bradley added.
“And she said one time. She said it’s one of the hardest things to do. I look forward to the challenge this week. This is going to be my third time doing it and I’m going to be better equipped for it.”
Bradley, who beat fellow American Jason Dufner in a playoff to win last year’s PGA Championship, was elated to win a third title on the PGA Tour at Firestone after squandering two good opportunities earlier this season with poor final rounds.
“I felt like that I gave away a couple of tournaments, one being Doral,” he said, referring to the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March when he was in contention until fading with bogeys on 15 and 17, and a double-bogey on the final hole.
“It was kind of starting to bother me because I was having some really poor Sundays. At Greenbrier I also did it. I shot four over on Sunday, and it was starting to get to me.
“I just kept telling myself to stay patient and just hang around today and see what happens, and I did rely on my experience at the PGA (Championship) and stuff like that to kind of calm me down.”
Perhaps the most significant factor in Bradley’s favour going into the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island is the scintillating putting he produced at Firestone where he closed with a six-under-par 64.
Wielding his belly putter, he poured in a series of lengthy putts in the final round - most notably a 15-footer for par on the 18th green to seal victory one stroke ahead of compatriots Steve Stricker and overnight leader Jim Furyk.
“I didn’t think for a second I was going to miss it,” Bradley smiled. “I just felt so great over it. It was unbelievable.
“I got behind it, and I barely even had to read it. I knew the exact way it was going to break. I just needed to hit it hard enough. I knew that. And it was dead center.”
The 94th PGA Championship, being played on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, starts on Thursday.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue