Keegan Bradley has, shall we say, a unique pre-shot routine that seems to work for him but inspires satirical riffs and rankles the heck out of some observers.
ESPN’s Paul Azinger, for one, almost can’t look each time the 2011 PGA champion goes into his twitchy little cha-cha, which was on full display Thursday and Friday as Bradley played the first two rounds of the U.S. Open alongside run-away leader Martin Kaymer.
"Ever play ‘Red Light/Green Light’ when you were a kid?" 1993 PGA champion Azinger asked his TV broadcasting cohorts, referring to an old-timey children’s game that features a lot of stopping and starting, as Bradley made his way around Pinehurst Friday to the tune of 1-under.
Bradley’s 69 matched his opening-day score and put him in a five-way tie for fifth and vying for the lead of the B-flight as Kaymer carded a second-straight 65 to set a 36-hole U.S. Open-record tally of 130. (For perspective, that’s one better than Rory McIlroy’s 131 at Congressional Country Club when he cruised to an 8-stroke route of the field in 2011).
But back to Kaymer’s two-day sidekick, who grabbed a lot of airtime the last two days, thanks to his spot in the marquee threesome (the third wheel was Bradley’s good buddy, Jason Dufner, who was slamming his trunk after finishing at 6-over, one shot over the cut line).
Indeed, Bradley's quirks did not escape his high-flying playing partner, who will kick off the weekend with a six-shot lead over his nearest competitor, Brendon Todd.
"Not a nice question, I can only lose here," Kaymer said in response to a reporter's query about how he would describe the way Bradley went about his business. "It's not easy playing with Keegan, I must admit that, because sometimes he takes a little bit more time and sometimes he takes a little bit less time, so it's quite difficult to adjust."
Kaymer said he had adjusted to Bradley's pace in the several times he has played with him over the last few years.
Azinger was not so concerned about being diplomatic.
"He sneaks up on the ball like the ball’s ‘It,’ like it’s got eyeballs," Azinger remarked about Bradley’s approach that involves a whole lot of jittery fits and starts before he finally pulls the trigger.
"I wonder if he’d be better if he could get rid of some of that fidgety back and forth," Azinger said. "That’s just gotten worse since he’s gone along in his career; you know he certainly couldn’t have started like that."
Or could he have?
Bradley’s technique has come under scrutiny for some time, even leading the three-time PGA Tour winner to spoof himself on an episode of "Feherty" last year.
"I realize that it’s so bizarre ... I hear about it on Twitter every single day from people that are real experts," Bradley told Feherty in the 2013 show. "I catch a lot of flak for it on tour from Dufner and these guys, they make fun of me ... and I have to take it."
While he seems to have conquered his need to expectorate, he still has a distinct way of addressing his ball. His second putt on the par-3 sixth, which took some 50 seconds from start to end, was a good example of Bradley’s method, which did not win style points from Azinger.
Despite his views of Bradley's approach, Azinger and his ESPN colleague, Andy North, were impressed by, Bradley's four birdies in his final seven holes on Friday.
"Keegan’s grinding on this," two-time U.S. Open winner North said as Bradley was in the midst of his excruciating routine on the sixth green. "He’s made a nice comeback. A couple of times early on in the round, he made back-to-back bogeys [on holes 11 and 12 and 17 and 18 after starting on No. 10]. He’s just been kinda behind the eight-ball, fighting back to this point."
"He doesn’t have any give-up, that’s for sure," he said as Bradley finished his round.
Now, if Azinger’s waiting for Bradley to kick his "Red Light/Green Light" habit, he may not want to hold his breath.
As Bradley told Feherty about a methodology that has become his signature: "There’s not a person in the world that does what I do."
And for that, Paul Azinger can be thankful.