Keegan Bradley Eyes a Touch of Wanamaker Luck
Keegan Bradley knows what it takes to win a PGA Championship and staying mentally sharp is a key part of it.
After a 2-under-par start at Oak Hill Country Club, he was thrilled to put his feet up at the end of a tough, but excellent, day.
“I’m so glad to be done. I’m just fried,” Bradley said with a smile. “What a great test it is, Oak Hill.”
Bradley sits tied for fourth after his first 18 holes at the 105th PGA Championship as the afternoon shadows got longer in Rochester. He opened the day with birdies on Nos. 10, 12, and 13 before making an unfortunate double bogey on 15. He added birdies on Nos. 18, 1, and 3 before adding another on No. 6. He closed his day with bogeys on Nos. 7 and 9, but he’s still in the mix.
“I got off to such a great start and hit a horrible shot on 15 to an area you just can't hit in, and then I played great. The finishing holes on both these sides are so hard that you figure, you're going to make a bogey probably unless you hit a perfect shot,” Bradley said. “You know, 2-under par is a great score. Would I have loved for it to be four but that's just the way this is.”
Bradley said the key to his success Thursday was his solid iron play combined with “great” putting. Through late afternoon he was third in Strokes Gained: Putting.
“It's so fun, especially in majors to putt that way and feel like you're going to make a ton of putts. I mean, the greens are absolutely perfect,” Bradley said. “It's really fun to play golf around here at Oak Hill in front of these fans.”
Bradley won the 2011 PGA Championship in his major debut and followed that up with a tie for third the next year. He went six years between PGA Tour titles (2012-2018) before breaking another four-year drought in 2022 after winning the Zozo Championship. He notched his first top-10 finish at a major since 2014 at last year’s U.S. Open and has been rounding into form this year with a handful of solid results.
As a native of the Northeast, Bradley was heaping praise on the golf course and the fans through the first round, and there’s part of him that’s motivated to continue his fine play to keep the crowd on his side.
“You come to an area like this at Oak Hill where they don’t get a lot of golf tournaments and you show up (in the morning) and it’s just lined with people,” said Bradley. “I love playing golf up in the Northeast. I love playing these classic golf courses with all the history […] it’s just a pleasure to play out here.”
And perhaps the biggest thing that’s inspired him this week – versus any other time he’s returned to the PGA Championship – is how meaningful winning the Wanamaker Trophy actually is.
It seems like a lifetime ago, he said of his win in 2011. No wife. No kids. He’s not sure why, but this week it really sunk in that he won this tournament. When they announced Bradley as the 2011 winner on the first tee earlier, he got a lump in his throat.
“I don’t ever touch any trophies that I haven’t won, but I always go by and give (the Wanamaker Trophy) a little tap for good luck,” Bradley said. “As I get older and play the Tour for a long time, I realize how special it is to win one of these.”
And Bradley is off to a good start so far to try to win another.