Before TPC Boston, Bradley to take on Fenway

NORTON, Mass. – Golf bag strapped over left shoulder? Nothing wrong with that picture. After all, golf is what Keegan Bradley does for a living.

But on closer examination, there seemed to be a baseball in his right hand.


Bradley smiled and held it up. Indeed, he was in serious prep mode. In fact, there was a chance he’d throw the baseball before hitting any golf shots on the range.

“I’ve got to warm up,” Bradley said.

He is back home, the first true native New Englander to win a major championship since Julius Boros (sorry, we can’t take credit for Paul Azinger, whose stay in Holyoke, Mass., was all too brief), and Bradley still is overwhelmed by it all. For the few brief minutes he stood outside the TPC Boston clubhouse Tuesday in a brilliant sunshine, the memories of Hurricane Irene just a few days ago seemed so distant to Bradley; but the memories of his PGA Championship triumph on Aug. 14 are fresh on his mind. A steady line of fans and tournament officials shook his hand and welcomed Bradley home.

“It feels incredible. I can’t wait,” is all he could say.

How far has he come? In one respect, not far at all, given that he was a high school senior seven years ago in Hopkinton, 25 miles from where he now stood. But in truth, at 25 he is light years from where he once was, an under-appreciated junior golfer and overlooked collegiate player who honed his game for two years in the minor leagues and today is a leading force in $8 million parties called the FedEx Cup playoffs.

But ever-so-true to his humble roots, Bradley is blown away by the chance he’ll have Tuesday night – to throw out the opening pitch at Fenway Park before his beloved Red Sox play the New York Yankees. (Thus, the baseball he carried with him.)

And just as impressive is this, too: He arrived at TPC Boston after having spent a few days in Jupiter, Fla., but as much as the PGA glow is in effect, Bradley genuinely is concerned for the citizens in his native Vermont. Overwhelmed by the effects of Hurricane Irene, rivers overflowed in Vermont, there was massive property damage, and President Barack Obama has signed a disaster declaration for the state.

The chance to play for the first time as a PGA Tour member in New England is a proud moment for Bradley, and his gallery will include his entire family come Friday. At various times he has played before his father, his mother, his Hall of Fame aunt, Pat Bradley, and his uncles, but this week will be a true homecoming.

He can’t wait. Correct that, he can wait. That’s because he’s got one throw of a baseball and one unforgettable lifetime memory that takes precedence.

Marked improvement: If you studied your FedEx Cup standings right after the Memorial Tournament, you would have had to have looked well down the list to find Harrison Frazar’s name. Having missed six cuts in nine starts, Frazar caught a bit of lightning the week after Memorial, won the FedEx St. Jude Classic, and he enters the Deutsche Bank Championship 64th in the standings.

That’s a jump of 114 spots since the Memorial, and though that’s the biggest improvement in that time period, there are others who have rallied impressively. To wit:

For Piercy, it’s an especially wild jump, because three months ago he concedes he wasn’t even thinking about the playoffs. He had limited status and wasn’t getting into enough tournaments but kept telling himself, If I get a chance, things will go well if I get in a rhythm.

In fact, he played in three Nationwide Tour tournaments in April and May just to keep the rust off. Finally, a positive turn when he got through a qualifier for the U.S. Open and finished T-51. In seven tournaments since, he has a win, four top 20s and the comfort of security.

And some went south: With two tournaments to go in the FedEx Cup, Hunter Haas was 84th, Chris DiMarco 85th, and each appeared in good shape to go at least two deep in the playoffs.


DiMarco missed the cut at the Wyndham Championship and The Barclays and fell to 104th. Haas also stumbled, though his case was a little more curious. Having made the cut at Wyndham with rounds of 67-69-68, Haas lost out on FEC points when he withdrew midway through his fourth round. Then he missed the cut at The Barclays to drop to 103rd.

The other six players who began The Barclays inside the top 100, only to fall outside: Bryce Molder, Paul Goydos, Nick O’Hern, Matt Bettencourt, Tim Herron, and Michael Bradley.

He likes the place: John Senden will join Steve Stricker and J.J. Henry as the only players to tee it up in every Deutsche Bank Championship since the tournament debuted in 2003. But Senden can lay claim to something Stricker and Henry can’t; that is, he’s made the cut every Labor Day.

Beginner’s luck? There are nine PGA Tour rookies who are still alive in the playoffs: Bradley, 14th; Charl Schwartzel, 28th; Scott Stallings, 38th; Kyle Stanley, 39th; Chris Kirk, 41st; Jhonattan Vegas, 43rd; Robert Karlsson, 46th; Brendan Steele, 54th; and William McGirt, 96th.

Always nice to be reminded: When Dustin Johnson won The Barclays, it was his fifth title in his 97th PGA Tour start. Sounds fairly impressive until you go back a few years and recall a guy by the name of Tiger Woods.

He won in his 97th PGA Tour start, too.

Of course, it was his 26th victory.

Playing catchup: It was easy to miss in the whirwind that was The Barclays, but Graeme McDowell deserves a tip of the cap.

Twenty-seven holes into the playoff event, his season was in its latest funk. He was level par, and it was clear to see that 3 or 4 under was going to make the cut. McDowell pushed it into overdrive and with six birdies on Planfield Country Club’s front nine, he shot 30 and made the cut at 5 under.

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