NORTON, Mass. — With his LPGA Tour Hall of Fame Aunt Pat lurking in the stands and a slew of other relatives showing up to cheer on their newly famous golfing kin, PGA champ Keegan Bradley recognized the heat was on at this weekend’s Deutsche Bank Championship.
Bleacher creature? “I was hitting balls yesterday,” Bradley told reporters Wednesday after playing a practice round on the familiar TPC Boston layout, “and I looked behind me and I see [Aunt] Pat [Bradley] underneath the bleachers trying to hide from me.”
The younger Bradley realized a life-long dream Tuesday night when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park (“I give myself a B-minus,” he said of the high strike he tossed at Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia). He accepted high-fives and fist bumps from Boston fans happy to recognize a New England boy made good. And then he went to sit in the special seats Sox owners set aside for the graduate of Hopkinton (Mass.) High School and New York’s St. John’s University.
“Last night, they gave me a skybox with 14 tickets…and that wasn’t enough,” Bradley said with a laugh. “I’m probably going to have a lot of Bradleys, a lot of my mom’s side, so there’s going to be a lot of people.”
Despite all the press and fan attention the two-time PGA Tour winner and 2011 rookie continues to receive in his hometown, or perhaps because of it, Bradley recognized he had his work cut out for him this week.
Lots on the line. “This is the first time I’ve got to see a lot of family members since I won the PGA,” said Bradley. “The biggest thing right now for me is try to downplay this week as much as I can because not only is it in my hometown in front of my whole family, but this is a lot of FedEx Cup points on the line.”
Thanks in large part to his PGA Championship victory earlier this month, and despite missing the cut at The Barclays last week, Bradley entered the second of four FedEx Cup events with enough points to ensure a long run through the playoffs. Still, the potential Rookie and Player of the Year and Presidents Cup team candidate knew he had to don blinders and focus on the task at hand.
That may be more difficult for the 25-year-old who credited his Vermont roots with making him the man and golfer he is today to take it one shot at at time than for the blow-ins who largely comprise the rest of the 100-player Deutsche Bank field.
Indeed, with so many potential distractions awaiting her home-coming nephew, perhaps that’s why Aunt Pat tried to stay in the shadows while Keegan was honing his game on the range. After all, if there’s one thing a six-time major champion like Pat Bradley can relate to, it’s pressure.
“Playing out here on the PGA Tour is so tough,” said the young man who will be surrounded by family and old friends on a course he played back in high school. “It’s going to be a tough battle.”
Oh, and if U.S. Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples were listening, he would have heard Bradley’s appeal to make the 2011 team. Couples used one of his wild-card picks on Tiger Woods, who has not won a golf tournament since November 2009, and has one more to proffer to a deserving player like Bradley.
Bradley, however, wanted in on his own merits. “I really want to be on the team,” he said. “I want to earn my way on the team, first and foremost.”
Bradley praised Couples for being a “great captain,” and agreed with Freddie’s decision to add Woods to the squad.
“Tiger Woods is one of the best players ever to play,” Bradley said, practically echoing Couples’ accolades for the world’s 38th-ranked golfer. “That’s not a bad choice at all.”
Bradley stopped short of lobbying for the final spot, saying he would love to play for his country this year or next time.
Put me in, coach. “I hope to be there [in Australia in November for the Prez Cup matches vs. the Internationals],” he said, “but if I’m not, I hope to be on future teams.”
Bradley will tee off in the first two rounds on Friday and Saturday with another two-time 2011 winner, Mark Wilson, and Jason Day, who owns eight top-10 finishes and two runner-up closes this year on tour.