JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Until winning the PGA Championship, the coolest thing in golf that happened to Keegan Bradley during his amazing rookie season was getting a phone call from Fred Couples in May after he won his first PGA Tour event.
But if he doesn’t get another phone call from Couples next month, that would be just cold.
Bradley’s second win of the year moved him up to No. 18 in the Presidents Cup standings, giving him three more tournaments – all of them with $8 million purses – to try to move into the top 10 and become the first tour rookie to qualify for a U.S. team. If not, Couples makes two captain’s picks on Sept. 26.
Except the way Couples is talking, he only has one pick. The other already is set aside for Tiger Woods.
“He doesn’t have to prove a lot to any captain, I don’t think,” Couples said at the Memorial, when Woods was in the middle of his three-month break from golf to heal injuries.
Even when Woods returned to competition two weeks ago at Firestone, Couples again suggested that Woods only had to indicate his desire to play for him to be added to the Presidents Cup team.
That would mean Couples is willing to spend a captain’s pick on a guy who has played two full tournaments since the Masters, breaking par only once in eight rounds.
And it will mean taking a guy who not only hasn’t won in 21 months, but who has finished within three shots of the lead in just one of his last 19 stroke-play events on the PGA Tour.
This wasn’t a problem last year for Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin. When it was time to make his four selections, Woods had shown signs of turning his game around with consecutive finishes in the top 15 against two of the strongest PGA Tour fields of the year. Plus, there were no other Americans who had distinguished themselves as logical picks.
This year is different.
Among those outside the top 10 in the standings going into the final month of qualifying are Rickie Fowler, who won his last four holes to keep alive U.S. hopes in the Ryder Cup last year, and Gary Woodland, a winner this year and an intimidating player in match play with his length.
And then there’s Bradley.
It is not unprecedented for a player to win a major and get left off a Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup team in the same year. Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel won the last two majors of 2003, and Jack Nicklaus didn’t pick either one.
Then again, that was their only win of the year.
Bradley previously won at the Byron Nelson Championship in May after a sudden-death playoff, and if that wasn’t enough to show his resolve, the PGA Championship should have answered any remaining questions.