Growing up in New England, Keegan Bradley says he wasn’t invited to the big youth events that the Florida kids played.
That made it all the more special for the Vermont native to win in front of a New England crowd.
Despite a shaky finish, which he said was down to his nerves from wanting to win so much, the 37-year-old broke the tournament record at the Travelers Championship on Sunday for his sixth win on tour.
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Bradley finished with a 2-under 68 to finish three shots ahead of Zac Blair, who shot 62, and Brian Harman, who finished with 64.
«This is for all the kids, like me, who grew up in the winters and can’t play and would watch the kids from Florida, down south, improve, compete, and be invited to the biggest tournaments in the country that I’ve never been invited to. a,» he said. «I hope they know they can come from this area … and still succeed in golf.»
Bradley, who went 62-63-64 through the first three rounds, finished with a 23-under 257 at TPC River Highlands, a shot better than Kenny Perry’s previous record from 2009.
As the fans chanted his name, the 37-year-old stepped up to his ball on the 18th green, sank a 2-foot par putt, raised his arms and let out a whoop.
«I can’t even describe how it felt,» Bradley said. «All my life I dreamed of playing at Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium, and feeling very close to what it would feel like. A lot of people said they never heard the 18th hole sound like that.»
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Bradley had only made one bogey in the week before missing three shots in his last six holes as nerves seemed to get the best of him. This was the first PGA Tour event he attended, and the one he said he wanted to win the most, other than the big leagues. This was his second win this season; he won the Zozo Championship in Japan in October.
Bradley birdied the par-4 12th hole to move up to five under par for the day and take a six-shot lead. But he cut his tee shot in the water on the next hole, leading to a bogey. He also bogeyed holes 14 and 16.
He settled with par on 17th to guarantee himself a winning ride to the final hole.
«I played great until the last five or six holes and luckily I had a big enough lead to go home,» Bradley said.
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He became the first New England player to win the title since Connecticut’s JJ Henry in 2006.
Bradley moved up to seventh in the US Ryder Cup standings; the top six qualify for the team, with captain Zach Johnson getting six picks. He said that was the first thing he mentioned to his wife when they were leaving the field.
«I still have a lot to show the captain and I would love to go to Rome and be part of the team,» he said.
Bradley takes home $3.6 million of a lofty $20 million purse as the tournament became one of 17 designated events on tour this season, drawing a world-class field that includes No. 1 world Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm. Bradley’s earnings this season have exceeded $8.5 million.
Blair had his best result on tour. The 32-year-old from Utah has been playing on a major medical exemption after missing nearly two full years with a labral tear.
«Basically, I went from playing 18 or 36 holes every day for the last seven or eight years to not touching a club for five, six, seven months,» he said. «It was cool though. I got to hang out with my family and build a golf course and do a lot of other fun stuff. But obviously it’s cooler to shoot 62 on Sunday.»
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Blair had back-to-back bogeys at numbers 4 and 5, then went off with six birdies and an eagle at the par-5 13, where he hit his approach from 253 yards inside 5 feet.
Harman shot his second straight 64.
Patrick Cantlay, who shot 61 on Saturday to come within five shots of the leaders, made a run at Bradley with three straight birdies from numbers 13-15. But he missed the 16th green, triggering a bogey, and made his birdie attempt on the 17th. He shot 67 to finish four shots back alongside Scheffler (65) and 2019 champion Chez Reavie (71), who started the day a shot behind Bradley but did not birdie until the 14th hole.
McIlroy shot 64 and finished at 18 under par after making an early charge. He birdied five of his first seven holes in front of pitches that were four or five fans deep.
But he returned the shot in the ninth after his 352-yard drive came to a halt near a boundary fence on uneven ground. He then missed an 8-foot birdie putt at number 12.
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TPC River Highlands dropped eight rounds of 62 or better this week.
«I don’t particularly like it when a tournament is like this,» McIlroy said. «Unfortunately, technology has passed this course, right? It’s kind of made it stale, especially with how smooth it’s been with a bit of rain we had.»
US Open champion Wyndham Clark, who beat McIlroy by one shot last week at Los Angeles Country Club, shot 66 and finished tied for 29th at 12-under.