Nov
3
2011
Bradley Making a Point Early in Shanghai
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Take that, Freddie, Tiger, Bill, Luke, Webb, etc.!

PGA champion Keegan Bradley is letting his play speak for itself — which is certainly causing more grief for Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples, who passed on the rookie as one of his wildcard picks, and perhaps Luke Donald, who thought he had the Player of the Year award wrapped up after coming in the clutch with his dramatic victory at Disney to claim the PGA Tour money title.

Keegan fired a bogey-free seven-under 65 in the first round of the WGC-HSBC Champions, held in Shanghai, to take a two-shot lead over Fredrik Jacobson and Bo Van Pelt (who won by six shots last week in Malaysia).

With his “dream season” still continuing (well, it would’ve been even better had he been picked for the Presidents Cup team — he told me at the Tour Championship that if he were selected, it would top off his already-awesome rookie year), Bradley is trying not to let the talk of awards impact his goal of the week, which is winning, obviously.

“You know, all I’m trying to do is win this golf tournament,” said Bradley, via the AP. “I know there’s a lot on the line, and there’s some awards to be won. I’m sure Luke is not very interested in this tournament. I’m sure he’s sleeping. But I hope to keep playing well, and let those fall where they fall.”

When asked if his fine play was making Donald, who is at home on baby watch, nervous, Keegan, laughing, said, “Maybe.”

The POY award is decided by the players, who were supposed to receive the ballots last week, but due to an oversight by Tour officials, they delayed mailing them for another two weeks when they realized the HSBC Champions counts as an official win.

It’s a little early to crown Keegan with this week’s title (there’s a lot of golf left and his recent weekend scores haven’t been as low as his early rounds). But in the case he does win, there’s no question he should also win POY — he’d be the only player with three official Tour victories, including a major and World Golf Championship, and he’s a rookie.

“There’s only two people in the race as far as I’m concerned — Luke and Keegan,” Adam Scott said, via the AP. “If Keegan were to win this week, it’s probably a tough decision, but I would vote for Keegan. It’s a major, a WGC and a PGA Tour event in his rookie year. That’s going to be a better year. A major has to hold some weight, and then you add a World Golf Championship.

“Winning the money title and scoring average is nice and an incredible achievement. But winning tournaments is what it’s about. Keegan would have my vote.”

Meanwhile, Nick Watney told the AP that Donald has his vote and this week’s results wouldn’t change anything.

And then there’s the uncomfortable discussion of Couples snubbing Keegan for the Presidents Cup. It could lend more scrutiny not just toward the Tiger Woods pick, but also at Bill Haas, whose dad, Jay, is an assistant captain.

Perhaps a more logical outlook would be to question the qualifying points system. Jim Furyk had a hell of a season in 2010, but he hadn’t been heard of this year until the Wyndham Championship, the PGA Tour’s final “regular” event. He finished 10th in points. I’m told by the number-crunchers that Keegan would have made the team had the Ryder Cup points system been in place.

World No. 2 Lee Westwood, who witnessed Keegan’s 65, tweeted: “first round 69. 4 behind playing partner@Keegan_Bradley. The US must have a really good team for the presidents cup if he’s not in it!”

(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)