Masters 2012: Keegan Bradley exclusive

Golf News

The PGA champion on being friends with Phil Mickelson, Amen Corner, looking forward to sampling links golf and capturing his first Major

LAST year we had four new Major winners and four very different stories. Keegan Bradley’s win at the PGA Championship in Georgia was remarkable in that it was his first year on the PGA Tour while he also became just the third player ever to win on their Major debut – Ben Curtis and Francis Ouimet were the others.

Another notable, and most newsworthy, feat was that the 25-year-old was the first player to win a Major using a long putter.

In April he will arrive in Georgia, at Augusta National, as the most recent Major winner.

How difficult is it to juggle playing with all the off-course demands as a Major champion?
Managing time is the most difficult thing after any win, particularly after a Major. I just happened to win my first PGA Tour event, at the Byron Nelson, and my first Major in the same year which made it doubly crazy.

Fortunately I have an experienced management group in Lagardère Unlimited looking after me; they are a huge help with scheduling.
You also won Rookie of the Year in 2011 so won’t know a lot of the courses well. Which players do you turn to for advice on courses/life on tour?
It is well documented that I have developed a very good relationship with Phil Mickelson.

Without his help and insight this season, I really don’t think I would have achieved what I have. He has been like a mentor to me and fellow  rookie winner, Brendan Steele.
How important is it to have an experienced caddy in your rookie year? How did you and yours end up together?
Because you are seeing every course for the first time an experienced caddie is critical. My caddie used to work for my good friend Jamie Lovemark.

When Jamie got hurt, his caddie Steven ‘Pepsi’ Hale was left on the sidelines and it coincided with me looking for a new caddie.

I approached Jamie to see if he was OK with me hiring Pepsi and the rest is history. We finished in the top 10 at the Valero Texas Open and then we won our next start, the Byron Nelson.
How important is it still to do the same things and not put too much pressure on yourself?
I am always looking to improve. There are expectations and demands that come with being a winner on tour. My goal is to back up what I did in 2011.
You are very well placed for the Ryder Cup team. Did you grow up watching all the matches?
Of course I did! What golfer doesn’t grow up watching or wanting to be a part of the Ryder Cup. It is a huge goal of mine to make the team and would be a dream come true.

Have you played Augusta before and will you go beforehand to ease the ‘wow’ factor?
I am and obviously couldn’t wait for that. I took  my dad for a couple of days, and it was  very special for both of us.
It is hard not to let your mind wander to playing Amen Corner. Just thinking about that now gives me goose bumps! What is your earliest memory of watching the Masters on TV?
I was born in 1986 which was the year of arguably one of the greatest Masters stories ever, Jack Nicklaus’ win.

Obviously I didn’t watch it, but the highlights are aired over and over again, so I almost feel like I was there! It is pretty cool I was born that year.
Have you already pictured yourself playing certain holes?
Not really, but it is hard not to let your mind wander to playing Amen Corner. Just thinking about that now gives me goose bumps!

The Majors are at Augusta,  Olympic, Lytham and Kiawah. You seem to play well on tougher courses – so are there any you are particularly looking forward to?
I am really excited about playing Lytham. I have never been to England before, let alone played golf there so I am pretty excited.

In fact, the first thing I did when I won the PGA was to check the Open Championship venues for the next five years!

My agent, Ben, is English and he has played Lytham a few times. According to him, it suits my game. We’ll see!
Have you ever played golf in Europe? Or had any sort of links experience?
I have never played in Europe and don’t have any links experience. One thing I know is that you have to be able to control the flight of your ball, due to both terrain and wind.

I am looking forward to the challenge, as I feel that this is a strength of my game.
You must be the first player to treble a hole down the closing stretch and go on to win. What did you tell yourself standing on the 16th tee?
I just told myself that I wasn’t going to let that one hole define me. I had played great golf all week and, while I was still on the course, I still had a chance to win.
You won the Byron Nelson earlier in the year, how does the pressure compare of a regular PGA Tour event and a Major?
Pressure is pressure and winning is winning. Clearly you are on a bigger stage at the Majors, but I don’t feel like the pressure is an issue.

It is so strange for me, when I am out there playing I just don’t get nervous. Throwing out the first pitch at a Red Sox baseball game was much more pressure packed than either play-off!
In the second round you shot a 64. Did a 62, never done in any Major, come into your head?
No, not at all. I was in a zone all day. I just played and added it up at the end.

Was the red shirt on Sunday deliberate?
Yes. I always wear red and white on weekends. They are the school colours of St. John’s University.

I played on the golf team for four years and I wear it as a thank you to them. Collegiate golf was a huge part of my development.
In the closing holes you made up five shots. Did you know what Jason Dufner was doing, were the crowd telling you he was dropping shots?
I couldn’t pay attention to what Jason was doing, that course is hard enough without trying to find out what my competitors were doing.

All I knew, after making triple, was that to give myself a chance, I would need to make some birdies and thankfully I did.
You’ve won two play-offs. Some players have great sudden-death records, others have terrible ones. What is your mindset?
I was very calm in both play-offs. Excited/nervous before but as soon as I get on the tee I calm right down. I think it helps that you are just going up against one person as opposed to an entire field. ◆

In Keegan’s Cleveland bag

Driver: Classic
Fairway: Launcher FL 14˚
Hybrid: Mashie TM3 20.5˚
Irons: CG7 Tour
Wedges: CG14 52 & 58˚
Putter: Odyssey
White Hot XG Sabertooth

Previous article
Next article