Commentary

Bradley reaches his potential at PGA

Keegan's coach at St. John's knew the newly crowned champ had the makings of a star

Updated: August 15, 2011, 8:05 AM ET
By Mike Mazzeo | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

Sixty-three. Sixty-five. Sixty-four.

Frank Darby can still recite the numbers right off the top of his head.

The numbers represent Keegan Bradley's round-by-round scores in the 2006-07 Treasure Coast Classic Championship. Bradley wound up winning the championship -- his first individual collegiate title -- by carding a St. John's program record 21-under par 192 (63-65-64).

Bradley was a junior in college then. But Darby -- who coached Bradley at St. John's for four years before he turned pro -- knew he had potential.

Keegan Bradley
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesBefore taking the PGA Championship by storm, Keegan Bradley was a record-setting golfer at St. John's.

Star potential.

"You never know how far they're gonna go," Darby, who has coached the men's golf team at St. John's for the past 17 seasons, told ESPNNewYork.com. "But if there was anyone that was gonna make it big, it was gonna be him."

As it turns out, Darby was right.

On Sunday, Bradley, who won nine collegiate events at St. John's, became just the third golfer in at least 100 years to win a major in his first try.

Despite being five shots back of Jason Dufner with three holes remaining, Bradley, who graduated from St. John's in 2008, somehow managed to come back and shock Dufner in a three-hole playoff en route to capturing the 2011 PGA Championship.

"It's unbelievable," Darby said. "I never thought that would happen. There's really not that much more to say."

It looked as though Bradley had blown his chance at winning when he triple-bogeyed on the 15th hole to fall five shots back.

At that point, Darby, who was watching on television, just wanted Bradley to hang in there.

If he could just hang in there, Darby thought, he'd still have a chance.

Bradley did a whole lot more than that. He birdied No. 16, made a 35-foot put to birdie 17, and Dufner bogied the final three holes of regulation, forcing a playoff.

Bradley then stormed out of the gate in the playoff, making birdie on the first hole and never relinquishing the lead from there.

"He's gone through all the levels and succeeded," Darby said. "He's gonna be a star."

As of Sunday night, Darby had yet to speak with Bradley, but expected to do so on Monday.

"Everywhere he's been, I text him, he texts me back," Darby said.

Darby hopes to see Bradley when he plays in The Barclays on Aug. 23-28 at Plainfield Country Club in Edison, N.J.

Darby said between IPads and cell phones, he's been able to follow "every single hole Keegan's played this year."

Darby recalled that Bradley had a relentless work ethic and unrivaled determination when he played golf at St. John's.

"He played through Christmas in the cold weather and dragged other guys out there with him," Darby said. "He wanted it bad. There's no question about it. He's competitive. He's a warrior."

Asked by ESPNNewYork.com what facet of Bradley's game he thought was best, Darby called him a complete golfer.

"He's got a great driver, he's a great bad-weather player and he's always worked on his weaknesses," Darby said. "He got kind of a negative rap for his bunker play [during the PGA Championship], but he's a great bunker player. He's a little bit of a streaky putter though."

Of course, you wouldn't have known watching Bradley sink that 35-footer on 17 with a belly putter.

Darby said he knew Bradley was going to have a legitimate chance to capture the title based on the look in his eye.

"I could see his mannerisms," Darby said. "He definitely had his swing on, it was just a matter of hanging around."

Darby also noted the fact that Bradley wasn't in the last grouping helped his cause.

A little luck combined with a little skill sure made for one heck of a comeback. A comeback that will be remembered for decades to come.

On Bradley's bio on RedStormSports.com, he was asked what he loved most about golf.

"Being in contention of a golf tournament and winning," Bradley said.

Bradley had done that before. He just hadn't done it on the grandest stage.

That is, until Sunday.

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