After Best Open Finish, Bradley Rues Rocky Third Round

Keegan Bradley was one of only three players in the U.S. Open field to post three rounds in the 60s at Pinehurst No. 2, but it was a Saturday 76 that derailed his championship aspirations. (USGA/Hunter Martin)

Keegan Bradley was one of only three players in the U.S. Open field to post three rounds in the 60s at Pinehurst No. 2, but it was a Saturday 76 that derailed his championship aspirations. (USGA/Hunter Martin)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

By Dave Shedloski

VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – But for a third-round 76, Keegan Bradley might have had more to say about how the 114th U.S. Open played out.

Bradley, nephew of 1981 U.S. Women’s Open champion Pat Bradley, posted his best finish in the U.S. Open thanks to a closing 3-under-par 67 Sunday afternoon at balmy Pinehurst No. 2. Aunt Pat, in fact, was part of the large gallery following Keegan around and cheering him on.

Bradley’s final round was tied with Louis Oosthuizen and 2003 U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk for the second-best performance of the final round behind Daniel Berger’s 66. Coupled with a pair of 69s to begin, Bradley was one of only three players to break par in three of the four rounds. The others were champion Martin Kaymer, with whom Bradley was paired the first two days, and Brendon Todd. In his six previous U.S. Open rounds, Bradley’s best score was 73.

“It felt good to play like that down the stretch. I wanted it pretty badly,” said Bradley, who made three birdies and an eagle 2 on the drivable par-4 13th to sprint up the leader board and finish tied for fourth with Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Brooks Koepka.

The finish marked Bradley’s third top-five in a major and his best finish since a tie for third at the 2012 PGA Championship. It was by far his best finish in the national championship in three appearances after a tie for 68th in 2012 and a missed cut last year.

The 2011 PGA champion, Bradley ranked among the top performers in driving distance (third, with a 313.3-yard average) and greens in regulation (tied for fifth with 48 of 72), but struggled with his putting after going back to the belly putter this week. Bradley had used a shorter putter at the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago, but he switched back at Pinehurst because it felt more comfortable from off the greens.

“Yesterday, I had 36 putts. Today, I probably had 31 or 32 (he had 31). Yesterday was just ridiculous with the putter,” Bradley, 28, of Jupiter, Fla., said. “I had one one-putt. It was just sickening. So today wasn’t much better, to be honest. I made a couple putts, but I hit practically every green and every fairway, which is a good sign.”

Indeed, Bradley hit 10 fairways and 14 greens on Sunday, when the wind was up a bit and the course was still undeniably hard.

To say that he was happy with Sunday’s result is an understatement.

“I’m so pumped,” he said with a wide grin. “I was nervous coming down to the end, because there are so many Ryder Cup points on the line here. I was thinking about it. And it’s a battle for me because of how bad I want to be on that team. I know that one shot here or there is double points, so it’s … it was nerve-wracking.”

But that’s what a U.S. Open is about. It’s supposed to test nerves as well as talent and strategic thinking. Given the results, and his impressions of Pinehurst No. 2 before the championship started, it’s no wonder that Bradley felt like his fourth top-10 of the season gave him reason to smile.

“I would have taken 1 over to start the week. I thought – if you told me 1 over on Wednesday afternoon, I would have said you would win by three. So, it’s by far the best U.S. Open I’ve played, three rounds in the 60s, three rounds under par. I don’t think I’ve broken 15 over par at one of these yet, so this is big for me, for sure.”

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on usga.org and usopen.com.

Leaders
PosPlayerTo ParThruToday
1KAYMER, Martin-9F-1
T2COMPTON, Erik-1F+2
T2FOWLER, Rickie-1F+2
T4BRADLEY, Keegan+1F-3
T4DAY, Jason+1F-2
T4KOEPKA, Brooks+1F+1
T4JOHNSON, Dustin+1F+3
T4STENSON, Henrik+1F+3
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