Bells roll for USPGA champ Bradley
August 19, 2011
The bells are ringing for America's new golf star Keegan Bradley - but they could also be sounding more bad news for struggling superstar Tiger Woods.
Bradley's aunt Pat won six majors, three of them in the year he was born, and whenever she tasted victory her mother Kathleen rang a cowbell for all to hear.
That bell is now in the sport's Hall of Fame, but at her home in Cape Cod the former Solheim Cup captain found another and was ringing it the moment her nephew completed his extraordinary victory at the USPGA Championship.
Bradley, playing the first major of his life just as Ben Curtis was at Sandwich in 2003, came from five shots behind with only three holes remaining to beat Jason Dufner in a play-off at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
"It seems like a dream and I'm afraid I'm going to wake up here in the next five minutes and it's not going to be real," said the PGA Tour rookie, now twice a winner this season and up from 329th in the world at the start of 2011 to 29th.
Where Woods comes into it is one of the fascinating spin-offs to result from the final major of the season.
Bradley now leads the American Ryder Cup points race, but he is still only 18th on their Presidents Cup standings.
Woods is down at 28th and after his worst ever performance in a major - he missed the cut by six - he is not even in the FedEx Cup play-offs starting next week.
When that series finishes next month captain Fred Couples has to name two wild cards for the match in Melbourne in November and Woods' chances have suddenly taken a massive nosedive.
The former world number one is now 33rd in the world rankings - Bradley, Dane Anders Hansen and 18-year-old Italian MatteoManassero all went past him this weekend - and "Golf Channel" analyst Brandel Chamblee reckons on current form he is not even in the game's top 300.
So with Rickie Fowler also needing a pick as things stand and the possibility that the likes of Jim Furyk, Hunter Mahan and David Toms could be outside the top 10 when the time comes, a big decision lies ahead for Couples.
Woods has signed up to play the Australian Open in Sydney the week before the match. Perhaps, as he is down there, he will settle for a role as an assistant captain - or perhaps not.
Eight years ago Shaun Micheel was not selected the year he won the PGA title in stunning fashion, but Bradley already has twice the victories that Micheel has.
For incredible late turnarounds, the majors have not seen anything like it since Jean Van de Velde blew a three-shot lead on the final hole at Carnoustie in 1999.
When Bradley chipped into the water on the 15th and triple-bogeyed he was six under par and Dufner, waiting on the tee, 11 under.
But the leader, without a win in 147 previous starts on the circuit, also found the lake and had three successive bogeys while Bradley birdied the 16th and sank a curling 40-footer for another at the 17th.
He then opened the three-hole play-off with a further birdie, Dufner three-putted the 17th for the second time in an hour and his brilliant closing birdie was not enough.
On how he came back from his 15th hole flop, 25-year-old Bradley said: "No lead is safe. I kept trying to tell myself that and, man, it was so exciting.
"I also kept telling myself 'don't let that hole define this whole tournament'. I just didn't want to be remembered as the guy who tripled that hole.
"I'm very proud. It's the best golf I've ever played.