Paul Anthony Arco

The Takeaway

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The Comeback Kid

Monday, August 15, 2011


Finally, an American has won a major again. It seemed like forever since Phil Mickelson won the Masters in 2010.

Okay, so it wasn't Jack vs. Arnold or Phil vs. Tiger, but the Keegan Bradley vs. Jason Dufner battle Sunday may go down as one of the most dramatic PGA Championship finishes ever.

Who are these guys?

They're not exactly household names, I know. In fact, they had one PGA TOUR victory between them coming into this week.

The 34-year-old Dufner, who missed the cut in his last four starts, didn't take up golf until he was 15. The 25-year-old Bradley was known more by some for being the nephew of LPGA legend Pat Bradley.

But they earned some golf cred Sunday, after Bradley won his first career major championship, beating Dufner by a stroke in a three-hole aggregate score playoff at the Atlanta Athletic Club to take the PGA Championship.

In the playoff, Bradley birdied the first hole, No. 16, then added pars on Nos. 17 and 18, while Dufner went par-bogey-birdie to fall short in a bid for his first PGA TOUR win.

They were tied at 8-under 272 at the end of regulation.

It was Bradley's second playoff win this year. The rookie beat Ryan Palmer to win the HP Byron Nelson Championship. Dufner is now 0-2 in the playoffs. He lost to Mark Wilson at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

The last player to win the PGA Championship in his first-ever major start was Shaun Micheel in 2003.

Anders Hansen fired a 4-under 66 to finish third at 273. Robert Karlsson, David Toms and Scott Verplank were T4 at 275.

It appeared Dufner was well on the way to an impressive victory, especially when Bradley tripled bogeyed No. 15 to fall behind by five strokes with three holes to play.

But Bradley mounted a furious comeback that included a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 17, and a two-putt on No. 18 for a par to finish 2-under 68.

As impressive as Bradley's comeback was, Dufner's collapse was equally stunning. His slide started with bogeys on Nos. 15, 16 and 17. He had played the final four holes at a combined three-under during the first three days. It didn't get any better for the stoic golfer in the playoff, where his putting went south. He missed a birdie putt on No. 16 and three-putted on No. 17. He finally made a putt on No. 18, but it was too late.

In 2010, Bradley made 28 Nationwide Tour starts and had five top-10 finishes, ending the season No. 14 on the money list to earn a spot on the PGA TOUR this year.

By grabbing the Wanamaker Trophy, Bradley moved up to No. 4 in the FedExCup standings.

Keegan Bradley has arrived.

Deep Freeze

Two weeks ago, Steve Friesen hadn't even made a start on the Nationwide Tour. Now he's No. 23 on the money list and a step closer to earning his 2012 PGA TOUR card.

Friesen birdied the final three holes to win the Price Cutter Charity Championship on Sunday. He shot an 8-under 64 to finish 26-under 262 and earn his first career title. Gavin Coles (267) was second. Paul Claxton, Cliff Kresge, Ted Potter Jr., Josh Broadaway and Travis Hampshire finished T3.

Friesen started the year on a minor medical exemption but didn't get a start until a sponsor's pick last week. He is the Nationwide Tour's fifth straight first-time winner and the eighth of the year. The others are Ted Potter, Jr., Russell Henley, Steve Wheatcroft, Erik Compton, Russell Knox, Harris English, and J.J. Killeen.

Stray Shots

Steve Stricker had an up and down PGA Championship. He shot an opening-round best 63, but followed it up with 74-69-73 to finish T12. Jim Furyk had a second-round 65, but finished T39. Toms, who won the PGA Championship on this same course 10 years ago, fired a third-round best 65 and finished T4. Anders Hansen (3) and Pablo Larrazabal (T45) shared Sunday's best score 66 … Tiger Woods, defending champion Martin Kaymer and British Open champion Darren Clarke all missed the cut. Other notable cuts include Anthony Kim, Justin Rose, Ernie Els, Dustin Johnson and Lucas Glover. It was painful to watch Woods struggle this week. It was the fourth time in 62 majors that he's missed the cut, and the first at the PGA Championship … No one would have blamed Rory McIlroy if he had decided to withdraw after straining a tendon when he hit a root on a swing on the third hole Thursday. But the U.S. Open champ hung in and finished the tournament a disappointing 11-over and T64 … Lee Westwood is still looking for his first major championship. He now has 12 top-10s in his career after finishing T8 … Maybe we can finally forget Kevin Na's 16 on No. 9 at the Valero Texas Open, after his fifth top-10 (T10) finish of the year … Adam Scott followed up his big win last week at Firestone with a seventh place finish … Brendan Steele, the Valero Texas Open winner, had a tough final round 77 to drop to T19 … Scott Verplank now has three top-10 finishes after his T4. He's now made the cut nine times in 13 starts, missing weekend play at both the Masters and the Open Championship … This was supposed to be a vacation week for Scott Piercy, who missed his family's trip to SeaWorld when he won the Reno-Tahoe Open last Sunday. Piercy finished T26 at the PGA Championship.


Paul Anthony Arco is a freelance writer and contributor to rotoworld.com. He is host of The Golf Show!, which airs Saturday mornings on WNTA 1330 AM (www.wnta.com) in Rockford, Ill. Paul can be reached at paul@paulanthonyarco.com
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