With his fine play through three rounds at this week’s Bob Hope Classic, Keegan Bradley is starting to make a name for himself, but he has the good fortune to have a legendary aunt to turn to for advice. The 24-year-old PGA Tour rookie is LPGA Hall of Famer Pat Bradley’s nephew (ask Keegan how often her name comes up when he talks to the press), and the two talk often, either via text or phone calls, where she imparts some of her invaluable wisdom of the mental side of the game.
“(Pat’s) been super helpful to me,” said Keegan after posting four-under 68 at La Quinta. “She’s helped me where a golf instructor couldn’t. I text her and talk to her about little stuff, like, ‘What do you do on a Monday out on Tour?’ She’ll tell me what to do — like to take it easy.
“I’m sure when I turn my phone on, there will be a text from her.
“(Pat) helps me more with the mental side of things. She won’t tell me to hit this or that. She gives me the tournament-player aspect side of it and not a lot of players have someone like that in their family.”
Coming down the stretch, Keegan carded two key birdies, including one on his final hole. He hit a dart with an 8-iron on No. 9 (his 18th) to five feet. After rolling in the putt, he threw a confident fist-pump.
“I made that putt on that last hole — I made some good putts coming in to go from two-under, which would have been a little disappointing to four-under, which is kind of par, I guess you can say, so that was big,” said Keegan. “That birdie on (9) felt really good.”
I could tell. After three rounds, Keegan is 15-under for the tournament, good enough for T5 and just three shots behind third-round co-leaders Jhonattan Vegas and Gary Woodland.
Pat also helps Keegan with the mental aspects of his putting — the part of his game that’s been critical to his great play this week.
“(Pat’s) just told me to stay patient and calm. She works with Dr. Bob Rotella. We talk about a lot of the similar stuff, but I can’t reveal my secrets,” he said with a grin.
I caught up with Keegan on No. 5, where he hit his one errant drive of the day. He knocked it in the trees off the tee and had to take a provisional, but luckily, his ball was in-bounds. I had heard so much about how far he drives it from just about everyone, but I hadn’t seen it in person yet. I finally did on No. 6 and wow, the rumors are true! He absolutely smashed it.
The marshal on the hole said Keegan’s drive was the longest of the day. According to my math (which isn’t always trustworthy), it went 341 yards. He had a 5-iron into the green on his second shot, but hit it a little too pure and it ran through the green. He easily got it up-and-down for birdie, though.
Mary Kay “MK” Zordani, one of Keegan’s amateur playing partners on Friday, has been playing in the Hope for years.
“Arnold (Palmer) said during a media day that if you play with a girl, you’re going to win a major,” said MK. “(Keegan) is my pick to win one this year.”
In 2009 she played with Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink, who went on to win majors a few months later. Last year she was paired with Dustin Johnson, who almost won the US Open (and the PGA Championship, for that matter) until his infamous choke on Sunday.
“When you see a young kid like (Keegan) who hits it long as he does and has a short game to match and a disposition of a champion, you know he’s the real deal,” raved MK, who was by far the best amateur in the group and a good player herself. “Look, I have goosebumps talking about it!”
“(Keegan) missed a couple of shots he knew he should have made, but he didn’t get upset and kept his cool. Some of these young kids hit it far, but they don’t have the same composure.”
Now obviously, Keegan would love to win a major — he’s actually never played in one before, so he has to qualify first, but a win this week would take care of that minor detail. And with MK’s history of playing at the Hope with guys who ended up winning (or almost winning) their first majors, I like Keegan’s chances.
“I don’t want to brag, but I might be the good luck charm,” MK said laughing.