By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
IRVING, Texas -- When Keegan Bradley arrived at the champions locker room inside the TPC Four Seasons Resort clubhouse Thursday morning, he found a scattered mess. Specifically, his clubs. which were strewn all over the floor. Plus, his umbrella, which was open. And his golf bag, which had been heaved onto its side.
Plus, his Muscle Milk protein drinks were hidden at the bottom of the bag and wouldn't be found for several hours.
All courtesy of playing partner Jason Dufner.
Bradley, though, only blamed himself. He never should have left his bag in the locker room.
"Huge mistake," he said. "It was my fault."
The practical joke from his budding BFF turned out to be a precursor to what Bradley described as a "really fun day" and the rest of us might call "an impossible dream," as he shot a course-record 10-under 60 take the first-round lead Thursday at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
A few hours removed from gathering up his clubs and a few minutes removed from his lowest round on the PGA TOUR, Bradley still was trying to make sense of it all. His 60 tied a tournament record held by Arron Oberholser and Sam Snead, the latter having established the record back in 1957 at Glen Lakes Country Club.
It's not every day you finish a round sharing a scoring record with Snead.
"Shooting a course record is pretty unbelievable at an event like this, considering the history and the players that have won and the players that have played here before me," said Bradley, who won this event two years ago. "It's awesome."
It's also not every day that you go out and shoot 60 with two bogeys. Seems impossible to do. In fact, until Thursday, it had been impossible.
Twenty-eight rounds of 60 have been shot on the PGA TOUR. Of those, ShotLink has hole-by-hole scores of the 21 rounds since 1983. Bradley's 60 is the first to include two bogeys.
He counteracted his two hiccups with 10 birdies and an eagle at the par-5 seventh. And he did it with pinpoint irons, particularly on his first nine, and a hot putter, particularly on the final nine.
"Just one of those days where we had great numbers and could hit full shots," said Bradley's caddie, Steve "Pepsi" Hale, who had never been on the bag for a 60 until Thursday. "Just a quality round of golf. Every strike was darn near perfect."
Mix that with favorable scoring conditions -- greens softened by rain, no winds, preferred lies – along with a player who enjoys this course and has a penchant for prolonging a hot streak for an entire round, and maybe we shouldn't be surprised at Bradley’s 60.
Strangely, though, the threat of a 59 rarely entered Bradley's mind Thursday. Starting his round off the 10th tee, he was 5 under through seven holes, but bogeyed the par-4 18th when he bailed out to the right on his tee shot to avoid the water, and was forced to chip back onto the fairway with his second shot.
He followed with another bogey at the first hole when he waved off the suggestion of his caddiei to use driver off the tee and instead opted for 3-wood. That decision came back to haunt him when his tee shot landed in the fairway bunker. His par-saving putt from 7 feet, 8 inches, just slid by. All of the sudden, Bradley was just 3 under through 10 holes.
Although he didn't know it at the time, the bogey ultimately denied him a shot at 59. Bradley was upset with himself but Pepsi said he did not want to force the issue about using driver.
"I'm not going to step on a guy's instinct," Pepsi said. "He's the boss. He's got carte blanche. Maybe I should've talked him out of the 3-wood."
Bradley promptly bounced back with a birdie at the second from 17 feet, and would post four birdies and the eagle -- he called his 6-iron on his second shot the "best I've hit all year" -- in his last six holes.
"It was rare to match up a ball-striking day and make everything (on the greens)," Bradley said. "It never happens, probably a couple times -- and it happened today. The hole looked huge. Even the putts I missed almost went in. That's when you know you're really putting well ...
"It was just an explosive type of round. I felt like all I needed to do was get it on the green and I was going to make it. And to top that, I was hitting the ball close a lot."
It wasn't until he struck his final approach shot at the par-4 ninth did Bradley ever consider 59. Given how well he had played Thursday, holing a 136-yard shot with his wedge didn't seem out of the realm of possibility.
"It crossed my mind for a second," he said. "It would be unbelievable if I buried this."
He nearly did, his shot finishing just outside 3 feet from the pin. As he stood over that last birdie putt, Bradley knew what was at stake.
"I had 3 feet to shoot 60," he recalled. "I was actually very nervous, uncomfortable over it. Thank God I made it."
For most of his round, Bradley was focused on trying to match his good friend Phil Mickelson, who had shot the first 60 of this year at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Their relationship is equal parts friendly and competitive, which is why they made such a good pairing for the U.S. team during last year's Ryder Cup.
"I wanted to shoot 60, to at least compete with him a little bit with that one," Bradley said. "For whatever reason, I was thinking about it. I like to beat him every time I can, at anything, but it was a special day."
It was made even more special thanks to his playing partners, Dufner and Matt Kuchar. Dufner's laid-back attitude belies his good-natured pranks, and Kuchar of course always has a smile on his face.
It was a perfect group for Bradley, who enjoyed the lively conversation, especially with Dufner, the defending Byron Nelson champ whom Bradley said is "becoming one of my closest friends out here."
Alas, neither player could come close to Bradley on Thursday, with Kuchar shooting 69 and Dufner an even-par 70. A devious Bradley, having already enacted his revenge for the clubhouse prank, promised the day wouldn't get much better for Dufner.
But Bradley wouldn't reveal exactly what he had done, other than to say he took something of necessity from Dufner's locker. Shoes, however, were the items that were relocated. Bradley made sure not to cross the line.
"I'm too scared to do anything too much because I don't know what he will do," Bradley said. "He could throw my clubs in the water or something, so I don't know. I take it easy on him because I'm a little bit scared of him."
No doubt the rest of this week's field feels the same way about Bradley after that opening 60.