Sunday at the Byron Nelson Classic Championship may have lacked the birdie barrages and big names that tend to capture the imagination of the viewing public, but that’s not to say that the day was lacking in drama. Defined by a demanding layout and the unpredictability of the afternoon’s blustery conditions, this became a round of muted scoring set against a background hum of anxiety and thwarted expectation.
Jason Day, Ryuji Imada, Joe Ogilvie, Matt Kuchar, Ryan Palmer: each had opportunities to stamp their authority on the tournament; but at day’s end, it was PGA Tour rookie Keegan Bradley who’d succeeded in muscling his way to the summit of the leaderboard.
Palmer may have birdied the last to take the tournament to extra holes, but his was just one last mercurial flourish on a day that demanded more– fortitude, consistency– from the main protagonists. It was a truth borne out by the subsequent play-off, in which Bradley’s regulation approach to the apron of the green succeeded in forcing the critical error from Palmer, whose second shot, a low punch from the trees bordering the right side of the fairway, caught the wind and careened into the water hazard in front of the green.
Bradley’s maiden victory may bring with it all sorts of attractive bonuses and honours, but few, I suspect, will prove more valuable to him in the long-run than the knowledge that this was a victory defined by the superiority of his mental strength to that of those around him. It may not have had all the declamatory shot-making and euphoria of, say, Jhonattan Vegas’s win earlier in the year, but Bradley’s rookie triumph might just have annouced the arrival of a talent every bit as promising.