When Keegan Bradley double-bogeyed his first hole in Saturday’s third round of the PGA Championship, the tour rookie could have packed it in. Instead, the pride of Hopkinton, Mass., kept his nerve, threw a dart at the 18th flag, and will head into Sunday’s finale one shot off Brendan Steele and Jason Dufner’s 7-under lead.
Moving on. “My goal today was to under-react to everything that happened — good or bad,” Bradley told Golf Channel about his poor start on the par-4 first hole at Atlanta Athletic Club. “I did a great job of putting that behind me and moving on.”
No kidding. The native of Woodstock, Vt., was even on his front nine, with that double, three birdies and a bogey. He added another birdie on the par-5 12th and showed no fear when he knocked his approach shot on a line to the 18th green.
“To turn a double-bogey around and hit a shot like that on 18,” Golf Channel’s Frank Nobilo marveled. “Worthy of another look tomorrow.”
Indeed, Bradley’s 1-under 69 for the day was good enough to get him into the second-to-last group on Sunday — one twosome behind his good buddy, Steele.
The two young studs have much in common, as GC’s Tim Rosaforte noted. Each is a rookie with a win apiece this year, uses a belly putter, and considers Phil Mickelson a mentor.
After compiling a third-round 66 that included seven birds and his own double, on the par-3 seventh, Steele gave props to the big lefty for helping the two newbies negotiate the tough AAC course.
“Phil’s been amazing,” the 28-year-old Californian told Golf Channel. “Both Keegan and I have leaned on Phil a lot.”
Mickelson, who will enter Sunday’s final round at even-par, has taken the two golfers under his wing, Steele noted.
“Playing practice rounds with him, he tells us where the pins are going to be,” said Steele. “He had already been down here last week when we played with him so he told us about the course.”
Just as critical, Steele added, was becoming familiar with the crowd frenzy that Mickelson generates even when it doesn’t count.
“Playing practice rounds with him, you get all the people around, you get the fanfare that kinda comes along with being around Phil,” he said. “It really prepares you well to play well.”
Just call me Keegan. One more fun fact about the Bradley-Steele friendship: they almost shared the same first name.
“This is almost spooky,” Rosaforte said. “Before Brendan was born, his dad wanted to call him Keegan, mother hated the name, said okay, come up with another good Irish name, and they came back with Brendan.
“They share a common bond,” added Rosaforte. “It’s too bad they weren’t paired in the final group tomorrow.”