Emulating Tiger Woods in Japan is an honour: Keegan Bradley

Keegan Bradley wipes away a tear while speaking on Face Time with his wife; With the Zozo Championship Trophy. Getty Images

American Keegan Bradley ended a frustrating four-year title drought by claiming his fifth PGA TOUR title at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP in Japan last weekend. Three years ago, Bradley, who holds one major victory, had played in the same group when Tiger Woods won the tournament for a record equalling 82nd PGA TOUR career victory, and he was ecstatic to see his name go up alongside one of the game’s legends.

By Keegan Bradley

It feels amazing and I feel so honoured to have won this tournament and be a PGA TOUR champion in Japan. It means a lot and I still can’t believe it. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into it. Even if you play perfectly, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win. But for me, I feel like I should be contending for tournaments, I want to play on Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, and majors. This is going to go a long way. Of my five, I haven’t really won that many leading the entire day like I did and I really learned a lot and think I can take a lot of this going forward.

I can’t remember the last time I cried. I talked to my wife on FaceTime during the trophy ceremony and I couldn’t keep it together. I don’t know what’s wrong with me! I’ve never experienced emotions like that after winning a tournament. I’m a dad now and I miss my family a lot over here, and I’m so thankful for all that my wife, Jillian, has done for our family. I don’t know if reward is the right word, but to be able to give this, the success of winning a tournament means something to me because I want her to know all the sacrifices she makes are worth it for us and for me. That meant a lot.

I got a billion text messages on my phone from everybody staying up until 3:00, 4:00 in the morning watching the broadcast. Winning with a family on your side is so special. I mean, winning majors and stuff like that is amazing, but being able to share a win with your family is something I never thought of and I never knew it would be so amazing.

Three years ago, I played in the final group when Tiger Woods won and I got to watch him do that. I learned a lot that day playing 36 holes with Tiger in the last two rounds. Anytime you play with him, it’s really great, but to watch him win up close was spectacular. I was thinking about it the whole day, just kind of remembering Tiger and how he walked a little slower than I noticed in the past, and I tried to do that. To have that same exact pin on 18 and be able to win, man, what a special day and I’m so proud to win this tournament.

This is really high up there. It’s just when you put the work in and you win, it means a lot. Also, it’s not only the fans in Japan who are great. We went into Narita a few times for dinner and the city’s so spectacular and clean and everybody’s been so nice. The fans here are so pleasant to be around. They’re really fun people to play in front of. Accordia Golf Narashino is also one of the best in the world that I’ve ever played and I’m very honoured to be a winner at this place.

I putted spectacularly all week. That putt on 17 was huge because I had hit three or four good putts leading into that and they didn’t go in. That one went in and it sort of really propelled the rest of the round. I had about 20 feet and I kind of realized if I make this putt, I’ve got a two-shot lead going down 18, which I thought, boy, that would be nice to have two there, and I just buried it. It’s just a perfect putt, meant to be and I’m proud of the way I handled that hole.

Before that, 16 was bizarre and I’ve never done that ever when I shanked one out of the bunker. I stayed really calm. That two-putt on 16 was huge and that birdie on 17 is one of the best birdies of my life and one that when I think back on this tournament, that’s the pivotal hole. I was never going to give up or let in and I knew I was still in a good spot to win the tournament. That’s why I practice so hard. It’s not going to be easy, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and that two-putt on 16 was major. Things aren’t easy for me normally, so I was ready. That birdie on 17 will go down as one of the best holes of my life.

This win is high up there. I’ve really put a lot of work in this off-season. I want to be in the conversation and this is a good start. This is so special.

Note: Keegan Bradley is ranked 23rd in the world and you can watch him and the PGA TOUR on Eurosport.


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