Keegan Bradley gets used to life in spotlight
A year ago this month, Keegan Bradley was a wide-eyed rookie plying his trade on the PGA Tour, pinching pennies, piling up experience and replying to far more questions concerning his aunt, LPGA tour great Pat Bradley, than about himself.
Then he won the HP Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, Texas, in his 16th start on the Tour, overcoming the rugged TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas and Texas native Ryan Palmer on the first hole of a playoff.
He had no idea how his life would change or any idea on how to handle his newfound fame. As he thought forward with excitement to receiving his first invitation to the Masters, he did so under a growing spotlight. When he won the PGA Championship three months later in his first start in a major championship, the klieg lights intensified on his meteoric rise, and most everyone associated with golf wanted a piece of Bradley.
Attention, however, hit its apex after the Northern Trust Open this season. During the final round, and subsequent loss in a three-man playoff, a fidgety, head-cocking, slow-playing Bradley and his copious spitting sent forth a torrent of criticism on Twitter that visibly shook him.
“Some of the times were tough,” Bradley told USA TODAY Sports. “The toughest times were dealing with all the extra stuff off the golf course, which is something I never had to deal with in my entire career at any level.
“I was staying at the Hampton Inn down the road from the course at the Nelson, and I was just trying to keep my card, and no one really wanted to talk to me. Then I won, and everything changed. And it was especially hard at times because I was doing it on the fly. I was a rookie, and then dealing with being a major champion at the same time can be brutal.”
But as he begins defense of his title today, Bradley is a changed man, far more comfortable in front of a media swarm than he has ever been. He’s adjusted to make time for media requests, he’s far more at ease getting to and from the golf courses and he’s more relaxed inside the ropes.
And he’s no longer spitting.
“It was a tough time,” Bradley said. “Luckily, I was able to stop. I was worried that I wasn’t able to stop. But I’m a pretty stubborn guy, so when I told myself just to stop it and I just did it. And people can be pretty harsh on Twitter, which can be tough to handle.”
Bradley was hard enough on himself in the offseason. Despite his success, he was committed to become more consistent. So far, the 2011 rookie of the year has played well, with nine top-25 finishes in 13 events. He leads the all-around statistical category. And his chipping, caddie Steven “Pepsi” Hale said, is improving.
“There is no quit in Keegan. Ever,” Hale said. “He will always keep fighting. He is incredibly intense — in a good way. He channels it. When he’s locked in, he has that look.”
His commitments are far from over. As defending champion of the fourth final major of the season, Bradley has a long list of interviews and outings. This year, he’s looking forward to it.
“The second year on Tour is so much easier,” Bradley said. “I’m learning routines, where to go, where not to go, how much to do, how much to practice, how much to rest. People were telling me how much easier it gets.
“I’m comfortable out here. I belong out here.”