CROMWELL, Conn — Growing up in New England, Keegan Bradley says he wasn’t invited to the big junior events that youngsters from Florida got to play.
That made it all the more special for the Vermont native to win in front of a New England crowd.
Despite a shaky finish, which he said came from the nerves of wanting so badly to win, the 37-year-old broke the tournament record at the Travelers Championship on Sunday for his sixth PGA tour victory.
“This is for all the kids, like me, that grew up in winters and can’t play and would watch the kids from Florida, down South get better, compete, and get invited to the biggest tournaments in the country that I was never invited to,” he said. “I hope that they know that they can come from this area … and still make it in golf.”
Bradley, who went 62-63-64 in the first three rounds, finished at 23-under 257 at TPC River Highlands, a shot better than Kenny Perry‘s previous record from 2009.
With fans chanting his name, Bradley walked up to his ball on the 18th green, sank a 2-foot par putt and threw his arms into the air and let out a yell.
“I can’t even describe what that felt like,” he said. “I dreamt my whole life of playing in Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium, and to feel pretty close to what that would feel like. I had a bunch of people say they never heard the 18th hole sound like that.”
Bradley had made only one bogey for the week before dropping 3 shots in his final six holes as the nerves seemed to get to him. This was the first PGA Tour event he attended, and the one he said he most wanted to win, other than the majors. This was his second victory this season; he won the Zozo Championship in Japan in October.
Bradley birdied the par-4 12th hole to move to 5 under for the day and take a 6-shot lead. But he sliced his tee shot into the water on the next hole, leading to bogey. He also bogeyed the 14th and 16th holes.
He settled down with a par on the 17th to all but guarantee himself a triumphant walk up the last hole.
“I played great until the last like five or six holes and luckily I had a big enough lead to coast home,” Bradley said.
He became the first New Englander to win the title since Connecticut’s J.J. Henry in 2006.
Bradley moved to seventh in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings; the top six qualify for the team, with captain Zach Johnson getting six picks. Bradley said that was the first thing he mentioned to his wife as they were walking off the course.
“I still have a lot to show the captain, and I would love to go to Rome and be a part of the team,” he said.
Bradley takes home $3.6 million from an elevated $20 million purse, as the tournament became one of 17 designated events on tour this season, attracting a world-class field, including world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm. Bradley’s earnings this season have topped $8.5 million.
Blair had his best finish on tour. The 32-year-old from Utah has been playing on a major medical exemption after missing almost two full years with a torn labrum.
“Basically, I went from playing 18 or 36 holes every day for the last seven, eight years to not touching a club for five, six, seven months,” he said. “It was cool, though. Got to hang out with my family and build a golf course and do a lot of other fun stuff. But it’s obviously cooler to shoot 62 on Sunday.”
Blair had back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 4 and 5, then went on a tear with six birdies and an eagle on the par-5 13th, where he hit his approach from 253 yards inside 5 feet.
Harman shot his second straight 64.
Patrick Cantlay, who shot 61 on Saturday to get within 5 strokes of the leaders, made a run at Bradley with three straight birdies on Nos. 13-15. But he overshot the 16th green, leading to bogey, and lipped out his birdie try on the 17th. He shot 67 to finish 4 shots back alongside Scheffler (65) and 2019 champion Chez Reavie (71), who began the day 1 shot behind Bradley but did not make a birdie until the 14th hole.
McIlroy shot 64 and finished at 18 under after making an early charge. He birdied five of his first seven holes in front of galleries that were four or five fans deep.
But he gave a shot back on the ninth after his 352-yard drive settled next to a boundary fence in deep rough. He then missed an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 12.
The TPC River Highlands gave up eight rounds of 62 or better this week.
“I don’t particularly like when a tournament is like this,” McIlroy said. “Unfortunately, technology has passed this course by, right? It sort of has made it obsolete, especially as soft as it has been with a little bit of rain that we had.”
U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark, who beat McIlroy by a shot last week at Los Angeles Country Club, shot 66 and finished in a tie for 29th at 12 under.