THERE was a time when “Keegan Bradley” and “promising” were frequently used in the same sentence. He took the pro ranks by storm in 2011, becoming only the third player in history to claim a major championship on the first attempt and taking PGA Tour Rookie of the Year honors without any competition to speak of. Over the next three years, he added a victory, three bridesmaid finishes, numerous Top Ten showings, and consecutive appearances at the Ryder and Presidents Cups to his resume. He was on a first-name basis with fans, a standout for his sunny disposition and competitive nature, if a target for his controversial use of the long putter.
And then Bradley came crashing down to earth. For pundits intent only on following contenders, he might as well have disappeared off the face of it; he fell to a career-low 120th in world rankings last year, with swing changes and inconsistent efforts underscoring his loss of confidence. Then came the birth of his son Logan in November, coinciding with an evidently improving form. Whether or not the two are correlated, only he knows.
In any case, the results are clear. Since the turn of the year, he has missed the cut just twice against four Top Ten finishes in 22 events. And if his playoff triumph at the BMW Championship yesterday is any indication, he figures to be a fixture in leaderboards more often than not. Considering his ascent, it was, perhaps, fitting that his fourth career win, and first in six years, came at the expense of World Number One Justin Rose. Naturally, he celebrated it with Logan, catapulting it to the top of his accomplishments on the course. As he noted in the aftermath, “we get to go back, have fun, and enjoy it together. It’s just a completely different experience.”
At this point, it’s fair to wonder if Bradley will be able to rub elbows with the best of the best week in and week out. In light of where he was this time last year, however, his jump to 31st in world rankings cannot but he seen as a positive. If nothing else, he can take heart in the knowledge that “Keegan Bradley” and “promising” are again being used in the same sentence.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.