By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- The final outcome wasn't exactly what Keegan Bradley, or Phil Mickelson, for that matter, would have liked.
For sheer drama and spine-tingling excitement, though, the performance the two delivered on the 18th hole at Riviera Country Club a year ago on Sunday can't be beat.
Bradley and Mickelson had started the final round of the Northern Trust Open tied for the lead. By the time they walked onto the final green to the cheers of an adoring crowd, though, Bill Haas was waiting on the range with a one-stroke lead.
Mickelson putted first and his 25-footer dropped into the hole for birdie. He pumped his fist in celebration, then bumped those same knuckles against Bradley's fist, saying "Make it," and tha's exactly what his good friend did.
What Bradley calls a "defining moment" was one of the most electric ones on the PGA TOUR in 2012. Haas went on to win with an improbable 45-footer on the second playoff hole, but the drama on the 18th hole was an instant highlight reel and will not soon be forgotten.
"It's something that you dream about as a kid," Bradley said. "You dream about that putt on 18; after Phil makes it, getting to a playoff at Riviera on 18, pretty special. When I watch it, it seems like, that wasn't me. It seems like I'm kind of watching a dream, which makes it more fun."
Bradley, who won twice as a rookie, including the 2011 PGA Championship, went on to win the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational last year. It was redemption, of sorts, after he had tumbled out of contention at Firestone the previous year with a back-nine 41 -- and Bradley says the events at Riviera helped pave the way for that win.
"It was in that atmosphere, playing against Phil and at Bridgestone I was playing against Jim Furyk, another Hall of Famer, and it was those couple moments coming down the stretch where I really felt comfortable and all of my other wins, I had come from behind," Bradley said. "This one, the whole day I was kind of in the hunt and I really learned a lot."
Bradley, who tied for fourth at the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, appears ready to pick up where he left off after shooting 65 in the pro-am on Wednesday. He says just being at Riviera has gotten his juices flowing.
"I'll always have that memory of what happened there on 18 and in the playoff and stuff like that," Bradley said. "It really gets me excited to play, just even being here."