Backspin: Bradley has good vibes at HP Byron Nelson

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May 13, 2013
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM

IRVING, Texas -- Keegan Bradley already has one win at the HP Byron Nelson Championship and was one round away from a second title until overtaken by Sang-Moon Bae on Sunday.

Despite his disappointment at not being able to complete the job after leading for the first 54 holes, Bradley was upbeat about his future at the Nelson -- with good reason. He set the course record on Thursday with a 10-under 60 and he's finished first, second and T-24 in three appearances here.

He's a horse for this course. It fits his eye and he embraces the tough, windy conditions that force players to grind. Sunday won't be the last time he contends at TPC Four Seasons.

"I'm hoping to come here for another 20 years, so hopefully I can get another one or two," Bradley said. "I feel like every time I come here I'm going to have a chance, so I look forward to coming back here again next year."

But Bradley's 20-year plan includes a caveat -- the TPC Four Seasons Resort will be the venue for just the next five years.

Last week, tournament officials agreed to move the Nelson to Trinity Forest, a course planned in southern Dallas that has yet to break ground. The contract with TPC Four Seasons goes through 2018, with Trinity Forest -- which will be designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore -- becoming the host in 2019.

Who knows how the new course will suit Bradley, or any other player for that matter. Bradley is a world-class player, a major winner, and could make a quick transition to Trinity Forest. Maybe it will be an even better fit for him than TPC Four Seasons.

Changing courses, though, can change a player's fortunes. You only need to look at the Nelson's history to understand that.

Tom Watson won four times when the tournament was played at Preston Trail, including three consecutive wins from 1978-1980. He finished second twice and tied for third in another start. But in 1983, the Nelson moved to Las Colinas and Watson, despite finding himself in contention a few more times, never won the Nelson again.

No matter where the Nelson is held, Bradley can take comfort in knowing that Dallas-area golf fans will cheer him on. They saw him win his first TOUR event here, and enjoy his enthusiastic, aggressive style of play.

Late in Sunday's final round, Bradley turned to his caddie, Steve "Pepsi" Hale, and said he felt like his good friend Phil Mickelson.

"When I played with Phil, the fans are so on his side," said Bradley, who -- despite the disappointment Sunday -- spent several minutes after his round signing autographs for fans waiting outside the scoring trailer. "I always wonder what that feels like.

"I told Pespi I felt like Phil today, the fans are so great to me here."

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

"I hung in there. I chipped away. I was down four early on. I chipped away and got it back to even with four to play, which is all that I could have asked for. When I made that putt on 15, I was pretty confident that I was going to win this tournament." -- Keegan Bradley on his final round.

"Definitely! I love this place! (Laughter.) I would move to Dallas tomorrow! (Laughter.)" -- Sang-Moon Bae following Sunday's victory, after being reminded about his comments Tuesday regarding possibly moving to the Dallas area.

 "It's just not much fun playing golf right now the way I'm playing." -- Jason Dufner after shooting a 2-over 72 in the final round.

TWEETS OF THE WEEK

@jameshahnPGA: what's one thing fans should know about Bae? One of the funniest guys on tour. Korean version of Boo. #hilarious -- James Hahn on HP Byron Nelson winner Sang Moon Bae.

@ride2929 (Sang-Moon Bae): I did not Twitter for last couple month Wow a lot of messages !!! Thank u sooooo much I had great time and Im so happy !!! -- Bae following his victory.

@RickieFowlerPGA: I took a vacay, at Sang Moon Bae!! Congrats on the win man...solid playing!! -- Rickie Fowler on Bae's win.

THE BACK NINE: 9 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

1. The previous three winners of the HP Byron Nelson were Jason Day, Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner. Day played in The Presidents Cup for the International team. Bradley and Dufner were U.S. teammates at last year's Ryder Cup. Each of the three have spent time inside the top 10 of the world rankings at some point in their careers. Having identified those three, is a stretch to think that this year's winner, Sang-Moon Bae, has a similar promising future? "This is just the beginning of an incredible career for this young man,' said Bae's swing coach, Rick Smith.

2. For many of his starts this year, Bae seemed to have one bad round that kept him from contending. At Riviera, it was a third-round 76. In Puerto Rico, it was a final-round 76. At Bay Hill, it was a third-round 76. At Hilton Head, it was a final-round 75. At TPC Sawgrass, it was a third-round 75. Smith thinks the key round for Bae at TPC Four Seasons was his third-round 66 that moved him within a shot of Keegan Bradley's lead going into Sunday. "It's just been that one round that's been in our way," Smith said, "and he got that round (Saturday) by shooting 4 under."

3. K.J. Choi turned 43 years old on Sunday, the same day that his Korean countryman Bae won his first PGA TOUR event. Like many young Korean golfers, Bae considers Choi a mentor. Told during his winner's news conference that it was Choi's birthday, Bae beamed. "Happy Birthday, K.J.!" Bae, by the way, is the fourth Korean-born player to win a TOUR event, with Choi (eight wins), Y.E. Yang (two wins) and Kevin Na (one win) the others.

3. Besides speaking in his native Korean, Bae learned to speak Japanese when he played on the Japan Tour. Now that he's on the PGA TOUR, he's working on his English. He answered most of his post-round questions in English, although he did rely on his translator for a few more involved answers. "I have confidence that my English will get better," Bae said. "I like speaking."

4. Bradley and Dufner not only have enjoyed success at the HP Byron Nelson, they also have become close friends. After pranking each other earlier in the week, they teamed up in a game of horse on a basketball court at Las Colinas on Friday night, taking on Steve Marino and his caddie, and Matt Every and his caddie. "We actually won a couple of games," Bradley said. "The Duf can shoot."

5. Bradley said his swing coach, Jim McLean, showed him a technique in which he "took the club away, against the wall, to not take it too far outside." McLean learned the technique from Ken Venturi, who learned it from Byron Nelson. "A cool connection" Bradley said when asked about Venturi, who died on Friday. "He will be missed by everybody."

6. With the passing of Venturi, along with Pat Summerall's death in mid-April, golf has lost two broadcasting legends within a month. "They did great things for this game," said Lance Barrow, the lead golf producer for CBS Sports. "We should all be able to live life the way they did, 100 miles an hour."

7. Shooting a 60 obviously is not a guarantee of success. Of the 28 times on the PGA TOUR that a player has shot 60, just 10 have gone on to win that tournament. Phil Mickelson did it earlier this year at the Waste Management Phoenix Open but Bradley couldn't follow suit on Sunday.

8. The only bogey-free round on the weekend at the Nelson belonged to Justin Bolli, who shot a 65 on Sunday that included holing out from the greenside bunker at the 18th hole. Bolli had never even reached the weekend in three previous starts in this event, but he finished solo fourth on Sunday. "Some weeks you come in on Tuesday and you are feeling great and the game kind of deteriorates," Bolli said. "This week I wasn't feeling that great on Tuesday and every day my game felt better and better."

9. No player hit more greens at TPC Four Seasons during the week than Charl Schwartzel, who led the field at 79.2 percent, including a perfect 18 for 18 in Thursday's first round. But he couldn't buy a putt for most of the week, particularly on Sunday when he kept burning the edges. "I felt like I should have had five birdies in a row," Schwartzel said about one stretch. "The putter really met down most of the week."

FORWARD SPIN: WHO I LIKE THIS WEEK
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The final leg of the Texas Swing returns to Colonial Country Club, which rewards the type of play that made Ben Hogan famous. Zach Johnson, one of the straightest drivers in the game, has won here two of the last three years, and other recent winners (David Toms, Steve Stricker) aren't known for bomb-and-gauge mentality. In six of his Colonial starts, Johnson has finished in the top 10 four times, and fourth or better three times. Jason Dufner, who lost by a shot to Johnson last year, fits the Colonial mold perfectly. Colonial's smaller greens negate some putting advantage and place a higher premium on iron play, but whomever wins will have to go very low. Johnson shot 21 under to win here in 2010, and with moderate winds in the forecast all week, it's possible that record will fall.

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