CROMWELL, Conn. – Always, Keegan Bradley was aware of the reality – that compared to nationally-ranked junior golfers and elite amateurs, his unconventional upbringing and geographically-challenged address didn’t earn him the respect he craved.
He took note, bottled it inside, and let it percolate deep within to fuel a passion that raged in his soul. But never did Bradley feel anything but pride for who he was and from where he came.
That time on the St. John’s team bus, for example, when he asked the driver to slow down, then stop. “There, that is where I once lived.”
He pointed to the Crystal Springs Campground, an RV park in a small central Massachusetts town, Bolton. It is where Bradley as a young teenager lived with his father, Mark, in a 28-foot trailer that they affectionately called “Tin Cup II.”
It was a quick stop, very few words were spoken, and Bradley told the driver to keep going to the college team’s tournament.
But Bradley’s message was clear. He wanted his teammates and friends to know that he had loved his childhood as a ski racer in Vermont and even that brief time living in a trailer park, yet never had anything been given to him.
Which was OK, because from his early years as a golfer, Bradley came to understand he would have to earn everything. Fine. Only it’s worth wondering if he ever in his wildest dreams envisioned tens of thousands of fans chanting “Keegan, Keegan, Keegan” as they did Sunday at TPC River Highlands as this native New Englander closed out a victory at the Travelers Championship.
“At times when I was lacking a little bit, I would look to the crowd,” said Bradley. “If I just looked into the crowd, they cheered and I tried to just take that energy they were cheering at me.”
This was the most raucous of Bradley’s 13 appearances at TPC River Highlands, a natural byproduct of the 62-63-64 scores he had strung together to take a one-stroke lead into the final round. Thunderous roars greeted his early run and when Bradley birdied the 12th hole to get to 26-under and lead by six, you almost thought fans wanted to rip down the goalposts or for Red Auerbach to light up a cigar.
“I can’t even describe what that felt like,” said Bradley, whose gallery included his mother, Kaye, his sister, Madison, an uncle, Chris, and so many other members.
Ah, but if fans were letting their emotions out, Bradley kept his in check. He knew “every hole is a birdie hole” at TPC River Highlands, but so, too, is there trouble at every corner.
He proved it, too. A tee ball right and wet at the par-5 13th, an approach short at the par-4 14th and three putts from a bad lie in a deep swale for another bogey. Then, he missed a short birdie putt at the 15th.
“When I missed that,” said Bradley, “I was like, all right, this is definitely getting a little tight. I had to refocus.”
When he bogeyed the par-3 16th, Bradley was 23-under and leading by three. Gut-check time and that is a more advantageous position for him to be in. He is a Ph.D. in having to prove himself.
Those elite junior tournament directors who never paid him respect? It spilled over when the big colleges didn’t recruit him, either. St. John’s did, a fact for which Bradley is eternally grateful, but oh, how he did wondrous things in college to prove everyone wrong.
“What I always remember was how he came back each year so much better than the year before,” said Kevin Velardo, a St. John’s teammate who came down to watch Bradley’s Travelers performance.
The infamous “chip on his shoulder” that is a secret to Bradley’s success? “Oh, yeah, he had it in college,” said Velardo.
It’s been chronicled for years, how Bradley broke onto the PGA TOUR in 2011, won twice – including his first-ever chance at a major (the PGA Championship) – and has annually been a force. One could argue that at 37 he’s having his best season (two wins, a second, three other top-10s) and that this joy at the Travelers, his sixth career win, ranks very close to what he did at Atlanta Athletic Club 12 years ago.
That’s because he’s got years of maturity in the tank and with a wife, Jillian, and two sons, Logan and Cooper, it makes him view things differently.
“You can measure other tournament wins with what happened out here today and the enjoyment level,” said Bradley. “Winning before family versus winning after family doesn’t even compare.”
That he passed the gut-check test by making a rock-solid par at the watery 17th – “arguably the toughest hole the course,” he said – and had some breathing room on 18 to close with 68 for 23-under 257, three clear of Zac Blair (62) and Brian Harman (68), was cause for a celebration that he didn’t want to stop.
He hails from Vermont, has skied in New Hampshire and Maine, has won golf tournaments in Rhode Island and first visited this Travelers championship as a teenager to chase after his favorite golfer, David Duval.
Oh, and he lives now in Newburyport, Massachusetts, at least for the summer months and into the fall. Why? “Because I love living here and I’ve missed it. My mother lives in the town, my sister, too, and we’re only two hours from Jillian’s parents.”
Yes, he understandably will remain a winter resident of Jupiter, Florida., to keep the golf game sharp. But through and through, he is a New Englander and this was a win on home soil for the home fans.
“One of my favorite things about myself is where I’m from,” said Bradley. “The bond that you have with people from New England is different than anywhere in the world . . . so to hear the fans cheer for me like they would a sports team, it means a lot.”
He has come a long way from those “Tin Cup II” days when he lived with his dad, a club professional. Unconventional as it was to be in a trailer, the reason resonates with him even now – his father had moved to Hopkinton, Massachusetts, to take a job so Keegan could play on a quality high school team.
He loves his dad for doing that. His dad cherishes that his son took that opening and ran with it. And if Bradley wants his win to resonate, it’s for the kids.
“This is for all the kids like me who grow up in winters and can’t play,” he said. “I hope they know that they can come from this area and still make it in golf, if you put your time in and work when you can and enjoy the game. I hope they see they can do that.”
CROMWELL, Conn. — Keegan Bradley shot a 6-under 64 on Saturday to break the tournament 54-hole scoring record at 21 under in the Travelers Championship, while Rickie Fowler had the second 60 of the week at TPC River Highlands.
The previous three-round mark was 18 under, set by Brendan Todd on an empty course during the height of the pandemic in 2020. The four-round tournament record is 22 under, set by Kenny Perry in 2009.
Bradley missed a 20-foot putt on 18 that would have tied the PGA TOUR’s 54-hole mark of 188 set by Steve Stricker in the 2010 John Deere Classic and matched by Justin Thomas in the 2017 Sony Open in Hawaii. Bradley opened with rounds of 62 and 63.
I’ve wanted to win this tournament forever,” said Bradley, a Vermont native who also lived in Massachusetts and was playing in front of a large contingent of family and friends. “So, the feeling of wanting to push and win is something I need to fight against and just let myself go out and play.”
Chez Reavie was a shot back after a 63. He led for much of the back nine, but made a bogey on the par-3 16th, while Bradley hit his tee shot to 6 feet and converted the birdie putt for a three-stroke swing. Bradley finished second to Reavie in the 2019 Travelers.
“I had a big lead and then Keegan made a bunch of birdies throughout the beginning and middle part of the round to make it really close,” Reavie said. “Tomorrow is going to be the opposite. It’s going to be a shootout.”
Fowler just missed the 13th sub-60 round in PGA TOUR history. After failing to convert from just off the green on his final hole, he wound up tied for fourth at 15 under in the event where Jim Furyk shot a TOUR-record 58 in 2016.
“I hit a decent chip, just hit it a little soft,” Fowler said. “A tap-in for 60 is never a bad thing. It’s better than a 61.”
Fowler was a shot behind Patrick Cantlay, who had a bogey-free 61 that included five birdies on his final seven holes. Cantlay was the first player to shoot a 60 on this course, doing it as a 19-year-old amateur in 2011.
“The scoring on this golf course is usually on the back nine in that middle stretch,” he said. “I played the front nine 4 under. If you can get the front nine you can shoot a real low one, so tomorrow with the scores low I imagine it’ll take another low one.”
Denny McCarthy opened with a 60 on Thursday and shared the second-round lead with Bradley at a tournament-record 125.
McCarthy fell back early Saturday, making three bogeys on the front nine for a 37. He shot 70, leaving him tied with Fowler and Adam Scott (65).
An almost half inch of rain delayed the start to the round until 11 a.m., with players going off in threesomes on both front and back nine. But it also kept the greens soft and the scoring low.
Fowler, who shot the first 62 in U.S. Open history last week, had seven birdies on his first 11 holes on Saturday.
He was at 7 under on the par-5 sixth hole when he hit a little chip shot from 60 feet that bounced onto the green and rolled straight into the hole for an eagle.
Thomas also put himself in contention Saturday with a 62, leaving him in a group at 14 under.
“I’ve felt very close for a while, just have had literally nothing to show for it,” Thomas said. “And you never know. I’m one round away tomorrow from kind of completely changing my focus and outlook on the year and the rest of the year.”
Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler shot a 63 and was also in that group.
U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark had a 67 to get to 8 under.
CROMWELL, Conn. — Denny McCarthy came inches from shooting a 59, settling for a 10-under 60 on Thursday for the lowest round of his PGA TOUR career, and Rory McIlroy made his first ace on TOUR on a day of low numbers at the Travelers Championship.
Keegan Bradley and Adam Scott also made runs at golf’s magic number — on a course where Jim Furyk set the PGA TOUR record with a 58 in 2016 — but faltered late. Each shot 62.
Scottie Scheffler, the No. 1 player in the world, finished with a 7-under 63.
The 30-year-old McCarthy, who started on the back nine, had five birdies on his first six holes and five more coming in.
The Maryland native’s last birdie came on the 403-yard ninth hole after his 169-yard approach shot skirted just left of the cup, eliciting a gasp from the crowd. He holed a 5-footer for birdie.
“I felt positive from the second I woke up this morning,” said McCarthy, who is winless on TOUR despite several close calls, including at the Memorial Tournament this year. “So, everything just kind of clicked today. It was obviously just a great day.”
Adam Scott was at 9 under when his second shot at No. 17 found the lake. He made double bogey, then finished with a 20-footer for birdie on No. 18.
“It’s a shame, but it’s hard to be disappointed with a 62,” the 42-year-old Australian said.
Shane Lowry, Eric Cole and 2019 champion Chez Reavie each finished with bogey-free 64s.
Eight players shot 65, and 91 players broke par on a day where the expected rain and wind held off and the sun broke through in the afternoon.
Bradley got things started in the morning with birdies on his first five holes. Those included a 75-foot downhill putt from just off the green on the 17th hole, which kept gaining speed, but hit the flagstick and dropped.
The TPC River Highlands is known for low scoring. In addition to Furyk’s 58, Patrick Cantlay shot 60 as an amateur in 2011 and Mackenzie Hughes matched it in 2020. Hughes withdrew with an illness Thursday after shooting 76.
Bradley, a 37-year-old Vermont native, said he could not help but think about matching Furyk’s record.
“When I made that really long putt on 17, and it could have gone in the water, I don’t know, it crossed my mind,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about it a lot, but I certainly was going to try and do it.”
The shot of the day came from McIlroy, whose tee shot on the 214-yard eighth landed just below the hole and rolled into the cup. McIlroy, the runner-up at last week’s U.S. Open, finished with a 2-under 68.
It was McIlroy’s second ace in competition. He made one in Abu Dhabi on the DP World Tour in 2015.
“That was the best shot of the day that I hit,” he said. “It’s obviously a bonus for it to go in the hole, but it was really cool.”
Wyndham Clark, fresh off his U.S. Open win, shot 68.
The 29-year-old Denver native, who won his first PGA TOUR event last month at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina, said he got emotional after being introduced on the first tee as the U.S. Open champion.
“It kind of caught me off guard a little bit,” Clark said. “I actually got a little nervous. But then I hit a great shot and I hit it farther than I think I would have, just because of the nerves.”
The Travelers Championship became one of the PGA TOUR’s elevated events this year, with the purse raised from $8.3 to $20 million.