Bradley Back Where it All Started

TPC Four Seasons a special place for defending HP Byron Nelson champ

By Lance Hanlin – lhanlin@golfersguide.com

The last time Keegan Bradley was in Irving, Texas, for the HP Byron Nelson Championship, he was an unknown rookie struggling to keep his PGA Tour card. Things were a little different when he showed up at TPC Four Seasons Resort again this week.

“A lot of very good memories,” Bradley said. “Even just driving in the gates and walking up 18 again, kind of remembering how my life changed a year ago this Sunday.”
One year ago, the former ski racer defeated Ryan Palmer on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff to win the HP Byron Nelson Championship. Two weeks after that, he became the third golfer in history to win his major debut, stunning the golf world with a victory at the 2011 PGA Championship.
On Tuesday, the current PGA Tour Rookie of the Year took time to reflect on how far he has come in such a short time.
“I think back on it fondly because it was so much different than my life now,” Bradley said. “I was staying at the Hampton Inn down the street, just trying to keep my card. It’s cool to come back and remember all the weird memories of where I called my parents after I won, walking down that tunnel after I won, being in (the press tent). Just a lot of really amazing memories come rushing back.”
Just being at last year’s tournament is an interesting story.
When filling out his schedule prior to 2011, Bradley’s plan was to play Colonial and skip the Nelson. His caddie, Steve “Pepsi” Hale, convinced him that his game fitted the TPC Four Seasons course better.
“He’s never said anything like that to me in my career,” Bradley said. “He’s supportive. Sure enough, we came here and won. Pepsi knew something I didn’t. Thank God he convinced me to do it.”
Pepsi’s secret is now out of the golf bag, so to speak. Being one of the top drivers on the tour, Bradley’s game is perfect for a course that is demanding off the tee at 7,166 yards. Despite a strong field, he is the golfer to beat this weekend.
“I feel like my game is in a good spot,” Bradley said. “I feel comfortable, more fit than I ever have in my whole career. Everything seems to be coming together really well.”
While Bradley is trying to repeat, Matt Kuchar will be trying to refocus when the tournament gets under way on Thursday.
Kuchar won the Players Championship last week at TPC Sawgrass, moving up to No. 5 in the world rankings. Despite the monumental win, skipping this tournament was not an option. He has made five starts in the event and finished tied for sixth last year.
“I like it here,” Kuchar said. “My caddie is from the Dallas area, my instructor is from the Dallas area. I get to spend a little extra time with (swing coach) Chris O’Connell. Knowing that the U.S. Open is on the horizon, spending time with him is great.”
Playing in the tournament also gives Kuchar’s kids an opportunity to put on their cowboy boots, something they do every chance they get.
“They know that cowboys live in Texas,” Kuchar said. “When they come here, they want to be cowboys, so they have a good time coming to Texas as well.”

What: HP Byron Nelson Championship, PGA Tour event
When: May 17-20
Where: TPC Four Seasons Resort; Irving, Texas Purse: $6.5 millon (winning share $1.1 million)
Original architect: Jay Morrish (1986) Par: 70 Yardage: 7,166 Grass: Bermudagrass (fairways, rough), TifSport Bermudagrass (tees); Bentgrass (greens)
Tournament Stimpmeter: 10.5-11 ft.
Sand bunkers: 68
Water hazards: 8
Course record: 61 (Billy Mayfair, 1993; Charlie Rymer, 1996; Justin Leonard, 2001; Cameron Beckman, 2010)

 

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