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Bradley Returns to Woodstock for Charity Classic With Next Year Already On His Mind

  • Keegan Bradley, a former Woodstock High golfer and PGA Tour competitor, records a public service announcement for the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation after the signing autographs at the Woodstock Country Club in Woodstock, Vt. Monday, August 29, 2016. It is the fifth year for Bradley's charity golf tournament, which benefits the foundation. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News Photographs — James M. Patterson

  • Matthew Serafin, 8, of Rutland, left, and Sebastian Pell, 9, of Hubbardton, right, react to a shot by Brendan Steele during a clinic at the Woodstock Country Club with Steele, Jon Curran, and former Woodstock High golfer Keegan Bradley Monday, August 29, 2016. The boys, members of the Rutland PGA Juniors, came to observe the Keegan Bradley Charity Golf Classic and get the autographs of the PGA players. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Former Woodstock High golfer and PGA Tour competitor Keegan Bradley follows through after a shot during a short clinic at the Woodstock Country Club before his charity tournament Monday, August 29, 2016. It is the fifth year for the event which benefits the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation and the Vermont Cancer Center and Vermont Childrens Hospital. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 8/29/2016 11:43:59 PM
Modified: 8/30/2016 1:01:45 PM

Woodstock — The gesture was both brief and telling. In the midst of signing autographs and taking pictures with participants in his charity golf outing at Woodstock Country Club on Monday morning, Keegan Bradley rubbed his eyes.

It’s been a tiring PGA Tour season, and one that ended too soon for the former Woodstock High golfer’s liking. Needing to reach the top 100 on the Fedex Cup points list to stay in the tour playoffs, Bradley labored through a three-bogey back nine during the final round of The Barclays on Sunday on Long Island, and the slip left him three slots from advancing. His season, for now, is done.

Bradley, 30, marks Labor Day weekend on his calendar year. He looks forward to playing in the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston, as it serves as a return to his two former anchors, Vermont and Massachusetts. He prefaces the week with his Keegan Bradley Charity Golf Classic, drawing friends and sponsors back to his former home course in his former hometown to raise money for Vermont-based causes.

Missing the points cut means no competitive golf this weekend. It’s not how Bradley planned it.

“I’m going to go home for the first time since before the British Open, and then I’m going to practice and play,” Bradley told assembled media before Monday’s outing. “I’m not going to take much of an offseason. I’ve got work to do.”

It’s all about playing status on the PGA Tour. Once there, golfers want to stay there. But a steady decline in fortunes is threatening to affect Bradley’s future status.

He’s set for next season; even though he missed the field for the DBC, which starts on Friday, Bradley’s spot at No. 103 on the Fedex Cup list — it may change slightly over the final three playoff weeks — ensures he’ll have status when the new campaign begins in the fall.

The benefits of his Cracker Jack rookie season in 2011, however, are beginning to wear away. Winning the PGA Championship that season gave him a five-year exemption onto the tour; that exemption ended when he was done at Bethpage Black on Sunday. There are no bennies from past tournament wins, either, as Bradley’s last victory came in 2012. Week-to-week performance will become more critical.

“It’s been brutal, an abrupt ending,” Bradley said. “I’m working hard. Things are getting better. I’m bummed out I’m not playing next week, but I’m excited for next year and what next year will bring.”

Bradley and buddy Brendan Steele both graduated out of the second-tier Web.com Tour in 2011 and have been PGA Tour regulars since. Bradley shot out of the gate, topping $3.6 million in earnings and hovering around the top 20 in Fedex Cup points in each of his first three seasons.

He’s been in steady decline since then, going from $2.8 million earned in 2014 to $1.5 million last year and less than $900,000 this season. His Fedex Cup ranking has similarly plunged: 33rd in 2014, 60th last year, 103rd after Sunday.

Bradley’s optimism and willingness to work haven’t changed, Steele noted.

“It’s obviously been a tough year, but that’s the way the game goes,” said Steele, who moved up nine slots to 46th on the points list by virtue of a T-22 finish at The Barclays. “We’ve all been through it. We’ve all been through runs where it’s been difficult, and even when your game’s good, you don’t seem to get anything out of it. There always seems to be something that’s holding you back, and it just shows how hard the game really is.

“Everybody thought last year was a poor year for him. I didn’t think it was a poor year; I thought he played well. Everything was fine. I think his game’s fine this year. It’s going to be really good come the fall. It’s going to be great to get a fresh start.”

Bradley said he’s adjusted to the tour’s anchored putter ban. Lately, he’s been employing a long putter whose handle lies flat against his left forearm and follows the same pendulum motion his old belly putter — the one that helped in the PGA Championship victory — once did. He’ll need to improve that element of his game; he was only the 194th-best putter on tour in 2015-16.

Bradley remains solid off the tee. He’s among the longer and straighter of the tour’s hitters, and he ranked first in total driving (which includes ratings for distance and accuracy) though Sunday.

“He’s one of the best drivers of the golf ball that’s ever lived,” cracked buddy and fellow pro Jon Curran, drawing chuckles from the gallery of 100 or so as Bradley hit practice shots off Woodstock’s putting green.

The PGA Tour calendar changed a couple of years ago; the season officially now ends with the Tour Championship in late September. There won’t be much time for Bradley to rest, as the tour’s Fall Series starts in mid-October, seven tournaments with which he can get a positive start on the 2016-17 schedule.

“We’ll be back out there,” Steele said. “If you’re not, you’re really falling behind.”

Bradley played in two fall events last year, one of which generated the first of his two top-10 finishes. The end of the campaign came earlier than he wanted, but to Bradley that just means work will resume that much sooner.

“I’m trying to enjoy the process of fighting back and playing well again,” he said. “There’s been some moments that have been brutal, but the over the last couple of months some things have started to come together. … The great part about golf is we basically play year-round. I won’t have to wait very long to tee it up again.”

Divots: Curran is also good for the DBC thanks to a 60th-place ranking in points. Bradley’s former teammate at Hopkinton (Mass.) High dropped 11 spots by tying for 68th place at Bethpage. … Bradley credited his longtime girlfriend, former Hartford High athlete Jillian Stacey, for the help she provides in making the Woodstock fundraiser run. “She’s the best,” he said. “If it wasn’t for her, I’d have a hard time doing this tournament every year.” The two announced their engagement last fall. … The tournament supports the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation’s work with the Vermont Cancer Center and Vermont Children’s Hospital.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.


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