AKRON, Ohio -- Keegan Bradley proved long ago that he does not shy away from a challenge. He was a blatant Red Sox fan on the campus of St. John's.

"I was actually lucky enough to be there in '04 when the Red Sox won the World Series, when they came back from '03. I wore my Red Sox hat all over the place," he said. "I was lucky that Queens is a big Mets town, too. For some reason, there's a weird kinship between Mets and Red Sox fans, so they had my back."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

For Bradley, this whole year on the PGA Tour has been like the '04 Red Sox postseason: totally unexpected and unbelievably gratifying. Aside from shooting 5-under-par 65 Friday, reaching 8 under after two rounds of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and moving into a four-way tie for the lead, he was almost awed at just being here.

"I had Luke Donald behind me, Phil Mickelson a few groups behind me. I mean, it's something that I dreamed about since I was 2 years old. It's kind of happening in front of my eyes, which is a weird feeling to describe. But it's spectacular," said the former Red Storm golfer who won the Byron Nelson Championship in May.

Although he is the nephew of LPGA Hall of Famer Pat Bradley, Keegan, 25, is not blasé about the whole tour experience. In fact, he seems to have a greater appreciation for it than most. He is honored that Mickelson razzes him during their frequent practice rounds.

"I've actually got a pretty good story," said Bradley, who has the same management company as the four-time major champion. "On the third hole today, the pin is front right. And Phil, when I played with him on Wednesday, said, 'Come over here and hit this putt. This putt breaks left, but it looks like it breaks right.' And sure enough, I had the exact putt he brought me over to."

The rookie sank it for one of his five birdies. He said, "That was pretty cool."