He might hail from New England and be a fan of all things Boston, especially the Red Sox and Patriots, but whenever Keegan Bradley plays at Bethpage Black, it feels like a home game for the former St. John’s standout. Through 36 holes of the 101st PGA championship, the 2011 champion of this event is even par and looking forward to the weekend.
“To me, I don’t think there’s a more fun place to play golf than Bethpage Black in a major,” said Friday after a three-putt bogey at No. 18 left him with his second straight par-70. “I’ve had such a blast out there the last couple days. I have so many great memories playing on this course with my buddies. It’s really, really so fun to be out there and feel the crowd really root for me. It means so much to me.”
Bradley won nine collegiate events before graduating from St. John’s in 2008. Although he played the Black Course several times with his teammates, he said it wasn’t really his home course, as many people believe.
“In college, I played a couple or three times a year. I got to play here a ton, but most of the time, it was in the late fall and it was cold. I just love playing golf in this area on this course.”
Bradley experienced tremendous early success in his career, winning twice as a PGA Tour rookie in 2011, including the PGA, which was the first major tournament he ever played. Bradley added a win in the Bridgestone Invitational the following year but then went six seasons without hitting the winner’s circle until breaking through at the BMW Championship playoff event last August.
During his slump, Bradley said other veteran Tour pros reached out to offer encouragement, and he could see incremental progress in regaining his form over the past couple of years. Part of the problem is that he was one of the players practicing anchored putting, which was banned starting in 2016.
Explaining his resurgence, Bradley said, “My coach Darren May really helped me a lot. It was just a lot of hard work, a lot of time on the range and the putting green. It wasn’t all my putting, but that was definitely a part of it. But I needed a lot of work everywhere.”
It’s five years away, but one future goal for Bradley is to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team for the 2024 event, which will be staged at Bethpage Black. He played on the 2012 and 2014 Ryder Cup teams and is back in contention after climbing to 16th in the current U.S. points standings for the 2020 Ryder Cup at Olympic Club in San Francisco
Looking ahead to the prospect of making the U.S. squad in 2024, Bradley said, “The ultimate for an American playing Ryder Cup would be to play here at Bethpage in New York. This is going to be one of the wildest atmospheres certainly in our sport. It’s up there with any sport really. It’s going to be nuts.”