Bradley became new face of U.S. in future Ryder Cups

ablondin@thesunnews.comSeptember 30, 2012 

— The United States just might have found its next great Ryder Cup player, perhaps the best and most suited player for the competition since Arnold Palmer.

Keegan Bradley emerged as the rock star of the 39th Ryder Cup matches at Medinah Country Club, and he looks to be a staple of the U.S. team for years to come.

Bradley stood out in the Chicago area for his odd pre-shot routine of rocking to and fro, eye-cock to line up putts with his dominant left eye, intensity and unbridled enthusiasm. More than anything, he stood out for his play and impact on the matches and crowd.

“He’s got that intense look in his eye that the great players have,” U.S. Ryder Cup team captain Davis Love III said. “He’s a competitor and he’s confident in his game and he loves to be there. He loves walking out on that first tee.”

The U.S. has now lost five of the past six and seven of the last nine Ryder Cups, and no one on the current team arrived at Medinah with a winning individual Ryder Cup record.

Bradley went 3-1-0 and didn’t experience a loss yet until Sunday’s singles matches, and even then showed his gumption by battling back from a 2-down deficit to world No. 1 Rory McIlroy to tie the match on the 11th hole before falling 2 and 1, and he was 2-under par Sunday.

Bradley and Phil Mickelson won all three of their team matches in impressive fashion.

They waxed two of the top five players in the world rankings with a 7 and 6 pummeling of Lee Westwood and Luke Donald in Saturday morning’s foursomes (alternate shot) match.

The result matched the all-time victory margin for an 18-hole team match shared by Hale Irwin and Tom Kite (U.S.), who defeated Ken Brown and Des Smyth in the Friday afternoon foursomes in 1979, and Paul Azinger and Mark O’Meara (U.S.), who defeated Nick Faldo and David Gilford in the Saturday morning foursomes in 1991.

On Friday, the duo easily handled Sergio Garcia and Donald – who were a combined 14-0-1 in foursomes at the time – 5 and 4 in foursomes and toppled McIlroy and 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell 2 and 1 in four-ball match.

“The U.S. didn’t really have a ‘go-to’ team … but now, I think, the U.S. actually has a ‘go-to’ team that everybody can rally around, almost like the Seve/Olazabal-type teams in the past,” said NBC golf analyst and two-time U.S. Ryder Cup team member Johnny Miller.

Bradley became the first U.S. rookie to win in his first three team matches since Loren Roberts in 1995, and he made a Ryder Cup star out of Mickelson, with Mickelson’s assistance, of course.

Mickelson, a nine-time Ryder Cup participant, won three team matches for the first time, and had been 3-12-3 in the past four Ryder Cups before being energized by Bradley and going 3-1-0.

Bradley, a Vermont native and the nephew of LPGA Hall of Famer Pat Bradley, is an avid fan of Boston sports teams, and he appreciates the stadium-like aspect of the Ryder Cup stage.

“It’s just a great atmosphere for me because I love watching the Patriots and the Celtics play and all those teams, and I love when they get the crowd going,” Bradley said. “I love when they run up to them and get them excited, and for me that was kind of my mentality this week.”

Before the opening tee shots at 7:20 a.m. of Saturday’s morning foursome matches, Bradley dashed over to the first tee to get the crowd surrounding the tee raucous.

“I heard the crowd and I needed just a little shot of adrenaline from them,” Bradley said. “I knew if I went out there and got them excited it would help them, too. … It’s not very hard to get excited out there when you walk out onto that first tee and the crowd is going crazy. It’s just an unbelievable event, an unbelievable experience as a player and as a fan.”

The Ryder Cup galleries couldn’t get enough of Bradley. After teams had teed off Saturday afternoon, when Bradley was held out of the matches by Love, first tee and serenaded him with chants of “Kee-gan Brad-lee.”

Considering his golf game, length off the tee, great putting stroke and affinity for a stadium-like atmosphere, it has been suggested that Bradley was born to play in the Ryder Cup.

He’s off to quite a start in what promises to be a lengthy Ryder Cup career.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 843-626-0284.

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