While playing in front of family and friends at last year’s Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston did not provide much of a home-field advantage for Keegan Bradley, the reigning PGA champ hoped to get a boost from the fans this week at the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn.
“I’m just so happy to be back in New England,” Bradley told Boston sports talk radio station WEEI on Wednesday. “I hope the New England crowd gets real loud for me.”
Bradley, a Vermont native who went to high school in Massachusetts, dealt with a slew of distractions and commitments on his way to missing the cut at TPC Boston over Labor Day weekend. Indeed, he said that such off-course hubbub had “disadvantages and advantages,” but that he was “looking forward to seeing everybody out there” this week.
With Bradley playing in the majors-winner bracket with Masters champion Bubba Watson and newly crowned U.S. Open victor Webb Simpson for the first two rounds this week, much has been made of the distractions that can beset players who’ve won such momentous events. It was no different for Bradley, who said his life had changed “for the good and some for the bad” since he won the first major he ever played.
“I don’t fly private that much,” he said with a laugh. While Watson advised Simpson to learn to say no to some of the demands on his time, Bradley agreed that the requests from media members and others had an impact on his life.
Still, the 26-year-old nephew of LPGA Tour Hall of Famer Pat Bradley would not have it any other way.
“Everything’s great out here,” he said. “I played a year on the Hooters Tour, so I can appreciate what we have out here.”
Perhaps the best part of Bradley’s newfound fame was becoming pals with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (“my absolute idol”) and having the chance to flip the coin at a Pats game, drop the puck at a Bruins game, and, of course, kicking off what seems to be a new tradition among golfers -- tossing the ceremonial first pitch at a baseball game. For Bradley, a die-hard Red Sox fan, “getting to throw out the first pitch at Fenway” was a dream come true -- although it may have paled in comparison to receiving a special gift from the Boston Celtics' general manager.
“Danny Ainge sent me a jersey with my name on it,” Bradley gushed, “and that’s about the coolest thing that’s ever happened in my life.”
Patriots players Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead, along with Bruins forward Shawn Thornton (all “big golfers”) have also become part of Bradley’s posse.
“It’s been really fun because I’m such a big fan, and to be able to have any part of these franchises is really cool,” he said. “It’s kind of a cool little family, like New England sports stars seem to stick together.”
As for this week, Bradley hoped to revive a season that got off to a strong start, with eight of nine top-20 finishes, but had foundered of late, as he had missed three of six cuts since finishing tied for 27th at the Masters. One thing of which Bradley was certain -- knocking it around the 6,844-yard, par-70 TPC River Highland track would be a relief after the brutality of the Open venue.
“It’s almost like a different sport, it’s more survival; it beats you up for sure,” Bradley said of his first U.S. Open, in which he finished in a tie for 68th at 18-over. “I’ve been taking it easy just from getting pounded at Olympic Club.”