By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Keegan Bradley hasn’t won in 2013, but a return to the familiar fairways of Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, could do the trick for the 27-year-old.
Bradley is the defending champion of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, which is scheduled for Aug. 1-4. He also was the 36-hole leader at Firestone as a PGA TOUR rookie in 2011 before a final-round 74 dropped him to 15th. He would win the PGA Championship one week later.
Bradley has broken 70 in seven of eight tournament rounds at Firestone, with a 67.6 scoring average. He started the final round of last year’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational four shots behind Jim Furyk before shooting a final-round 64.
Bradley said Firestone is “perfect” for him, reminding him of the courses he grew up on in New England. “It’s a course that I’ve felt comfortable on the last two years, and one that I feel like every time I play, that I should have a decent shot to win the tournament," he said. "It’s a really special place for me and I’m excited to come back.”
He's still seeking his first win of 2013, but is 10th in the FedExCup standings. Bradley, who has advanced to the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola in each of his first two PGA TOUR seasons, has six top-10s in 17 starts in 2013. He was runner-up at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, site of his first PGA TOUR victory, and third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard.
Bradley was still one shot behind Furyk when they arrived at Firestone's final hole last. Bradley’s approach shot plugged in a greenside bunker, while Furyk hit his over a sand trap behind the green. Furyk flubbed his chip into rough just over the bunker, while Bradley blasted his third shot 15 feet from the hole. Bradley holed his putt for an unlikely par, and Furyk followed by missing a 5-foot bogey putt that would’ve forced a playoff.
“It was kind of surreal to think that it was over, that I had won” said Bradley, who shot 31 on the final nine after taking only 12 putts. “(I) kept looking at the leaderboard and thinking, there has to be something that could go against me here. But I had won the tournament. It was just a surreal feeling.”
Bradley’s young career has been defined by large final-round comebacks. He was five shots back with three holes remaining in the 2011 PGA Championship, but made two birdies and eventually prevailed in a playoff with Jason Dufner.