Takeaways from the BMW Championship

Pittsburgh, Pa. — It has been a long six years for Keegan Bradley, so a 30-minute wait to see if he made a playoff was quite inconsequential.

When Justin Rose lipped out his par putt on the 72nd and final hole in regulation, Bradley had second life and took full advantage.

His win at the BMW Championship skyrocketed him up to 6th in the FedExCup points standings.

“I felt so calm today,” Bradley said. “It was really, really kind of strange because I don’t normally look at leaderboards, but IĀ looked all day, and I felt so solid. It’s so gratifying to get what comes with hard work. Sometimes you never even get it. To be back here and win this tournament is just incredible.”

There was a lot to take away from the BMW Championship and beyond from walking the grounds and here are some of those thoughts and what is ahead.

1. Keegan Bradley– Bradley would have been content with there not being a final round as he still safely would have made the TOUR Championship, but he certainly will take being sixth and jumping up 46 spots in the FedExCup point standings.

It has been a trying time for Bradley for over half a decade, having to transition from the belly putter after the anchoring ban and it certainly was a humbling process.

Two years ago, Bradley missed 10 consecutive cuts, calling it his “low point”. He was in danger of missing the FedExCup Playoffs, and though he was exempt, there was just a general state of struggle with his game.

“It’s tough to go from being on Ryder Cup teams, being on Presidents Cup teams to outside the top 100 in the world,” he said. “That was difficult. I had to really sit down with my coach Darren May, and we put a schedule together, and we worked hard to get back to this spot. It’s scary when I look back because I didn’t know I needed this much improvement. To put it all together, especially with the putter the way it was this week and the way it’s becoming, is so gratifying, because for a little while, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get back to this spot, and today I did it.”

Speaking of his putter struggles, Bradley explained he switched to a shorter putter which was similar to his previous belly putter and simply put, it just did not work out. He then went back-and-forth between an arm lock and shorter putter before he looked to Webb Simpson.

Simpson had to make a similar adjustment and it helped Bradley focus in and commit to the arm lock, which has resulted in a major focus in these last handful of months.

After struggling through his ball-striking, Bradley got that under control a year ago, it was a more arduous journey with his putter.

“I will answer any questions about putting ever now, in this situation, because I was pretty bitter there for a while,” Bradley said. “You see a lot of guys that were using the belly or long putter that are putting great now. I’m so proud of that because I was so upset with that decision, and I still don’t think it’s right, but it’s good to prove them wrong.”

The results this week spoke for themselves.

“I can’t remember a week of playing so solid from start to finish,” said Bradley. “It was really all week I’ve played great. That par putt I made on Saturday night was so huge for two reasons: One, I didn’t know if we were coming back and I knew I needed that to make the TOUR Championship. Obviously now coming back and playing, I needed that putt. I made two par putts on 17 and 18 that day that really kept me in it and was the difference really.”

2. Justin Rose– This past week certainly brought a range of emotions for Rose who in a sense enjoyed a home-course advantage, got to see who would join him on the European Ryder Cup team, led through three rounds into Monday morning and was battling to become the top-ranked golfer.

From a tournament’s perspective, Rose surely would have loved if the final round was not played since he was atop the leaderboard but even still had a chance on the 72nd hole to par and win regardless as Bradley bogeyed the last, but his par putt lipped out and it was off to a playoff.

Rose as previously stated, lost the playoff.

“To bogey 18, the 72nd hole and to get into a playoff is obviously nothing to be happy about, but the putt I hit to win I thought on the 72nd hole, it’s the best putt I’ve ever hitĀ to try and win a tournament,” he said. “I thought that thing was in the middle, but it wasn’t to be.”

It certainly was not all gloom and doom for Rose though as he did enough to become world number one in this week’s Official World Golf Ranking.

“To get to world No. 1 is unbelievable,” said Rose. “It’s something I can say now in my career I’ve been the best player in the world. I’ve been to the top of the game. That’s definitely some consolation. I just wish I could have enjoyed the moment maybe. This just slightly dampens it. But tomorrow or the next day, the week after, I’ll look back at this and think it was amazing, an amazing moment in my career.”

Rose has battled for 20 years and after finding out what it took to win has done so on some of the biggest stages in the world.

Now, Rose has a final chance to win this season being ranked second in the FedExCup points standings, which if he plays his cards right could result in the trophy at the end of the season which matters most.

3. Tiger Woods– It was another final-round charge for Tiger, but ultimately one which stalled and resulted in a T6.

By no means did Woods do himself any favors with two lackluster middle rounds, while others were going low, but Woods moved up five spots to 20th in the FedExCup points standings, safely making it to the TOUR Championship, checking another goal off his list.

“At the end of the season here, to say that I made it back to the Tour Championship after what I’ve been through is a pretty good accomplishment,” he said.

This course was one which could have been one of the toughest all season, but the weather took that away. Several in the field capitalized and Woods did not do enough to make the course his, and was unable to follow-up his masterful Thursday performance.

Still Woods, is now ranked 21st in the Official World Golf Rankings and by making the TOUR Championship, will qualify for most World Golf Championships and is securely in all four majors.

4. Jordan Spieth– Spieth had a chance to earn a spot at East Lake, but a 3-over par round left him 31st in the FedExCup and not inside the number to earn the invite.

It has been a trying year for Spieth who uncharacteristically struggled with his putter for a good chunk of the season and had three top-10 finishes after April. While two of those were the Masters and The Open Championship, this season just seemed out of place for Spieth.

Then as if the disappointing season was not enough, ESPN’s Bob Harig broke the story that Spieth may face more trouble.

With Spieth not qualifying for the TOUR Championship, not even making the Ryder Cup will save him from a rule placed two seasons ago to get top-stars to commit to more tournaments.

Tiger Woods is exempt from this rule for those asking because he has won over 20 times and been on the PGA TOUR for over 15 seasons, but Spieth is not as fortunate.

Assuming all of the above holds true, Spieth will either be fined $20,000 or serve a brief suspension.

“I assume it will either be a fine or I’m adding some in the fall,” he said. “I don’t know if that counts, I’m not sure. I talked to the Tour a little while back and I didn’t really think much of it and it becomes a situation then, you know, I obviously accept whatever fine it is and move on and try and add one every year but it’s kind of tough.”

5. Aronimink grounds crew– Billy Horschel spoke for all 68 golfers that teed it up for Monday’s final round.

“It’s a big ass miracle that we got this round in today,” he said. “The staff here at Aronimink and PGA TOUR staff did unbelievable job with the golf course and somewhat shape to play.”

The effort those at Aronimink put in to make sure play occurred was quite herculean. There were plenty of golfers who were safe if play did not resume, Bradley among them, but despite a few inches of rainfall, the tournament was able to escape any more accumulation and even got the one-hole playoff in for good measure.

Coming into Monday, the teeing grounds and second nine were in the most need and at least 34 of the 68 golfers would have to complete rounds in order to extend play into Tuesday, otherwise Rose would have been named the victor.

Words cannot describe the effort put in to make the course playable, but it was done nonetheless and ended the tournament on a positive note.

6. Tony Finau– Finau ended up tied for eighth place this week but more importantly earned the fourth and final captain’s pick over Bradley, Xander Schauffele and others.

It was a decision which was delayed from the expected 9 a.m. announcement because the final round was suspended a day.

Finau has done everything but win this season and has shown a lot of guts and grit in some of the biggest events of the season.

His game allows him to fit with just about everyone on the team which certainly fits what Captain Jim Furyk is looking for.

Furyk said of Finau, that he made the choice which also made it seem as if his mind was made up regardless of this past week’s outcome, which is fair since one week should not cause the script to change.

Finau joins Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas as rookies in the event.

7. Xander Schauffele– This week probably is a bit of a mixed bag for Schauffele.

The leader after two rounds missed the playoff by one stroke and admitted any chance of earning the final US Ryder Cup spot came with a win, which he did not accomplish.

Still, Schauffele has had trouble closing tournaments this season and was able to fire a 3-under par round which is among his best.

Despite the obvious disappointment, Schauffele also had the goal of becoming the first TOUR Championship winner to have an opportunity to defend the next year and safely accomplished that, moving to 18th place in the FedExCup points race.

8. Billy Horschel– Horschel also missed the playoff by one stroke and posted his second T3 of the FedExCup Playoffd, just over a week after withdrawing from the Dell Technologies Championship.

“It was fun to play and I had my opportunities there on the backside and, unfortunately, I knew when I bogeyed 15 I sort of put myself behind the 8 ball, had to go birdie, birdie, birdie the last three and I had opportunities,” he said. “I didn’t hit the green on 17, 18 but I hit two good chips I thought were in the hole.”

Horschel now ranks ninth in the FedExCup points standings, which is six spots better than when he came into the week.

It is quite possible Horschel is holding his second FedExCup trophy and once again in comeback fashion in just less than two week’s time.

“If I go back to 2017 and even a little bit the first few months of this year were sort of a struggle and it’s unbelievableĀ because I worked my ass off and not to get the results I’ve wanted, it’s sort of frustrating,” said Horschel. “My team has done and unbelievable job to stick through some tough times that were bad, not that bad. Not being able to play to my ability I get very frustrated, very easily. The results that we’ve seen the last few months is due to that hard work but also due to hard work from the last year and a half.”

9. Jason Sobel– Rarely is a credentialed media member a story, but Action Network’s Jason Sobel got to serve as Brendan Steele’s caddie for Monday’s final round.

This became possible when Steele’s regular caddie Christian Donald had a flight to catch prior to Monday’s finish. With Steele securely not advancing to the TOUR Championship, he offered Sobel, his friend, an opportunity to handle the bag.

It was an opportunity Sobel took with some belief it may not happen with additional rainfall slated for Monday, but the pair did walk 18 with Brian Harman and Phil Mickelson.

Sobel did make it through the round without a true major gaffe as he explained in his post on the experience.

10. US Ryder Cup pairings– Now that Finau has been selected, both teams have been completely formed, though Paul Casey’s health should be monitored given he had to withdraw before Monday’s final round with a back injury.

Here is my very early grouping predictions:

Patrick Reed & Jordan Spieth– This is an obvious grouping based on past success. Neither is in the best of form right now, so these two can pace each other for a set of holes which definitely could be enough. Reed I am sure would want to play with Woods but early on, you need points and even with Reed’s negative “I guess my name is not Jordan Spieth” comment, this pairing just makes too much sense.

Bryson DeChambeau & Tiger Woods– The two already are friends and Woods can just use his experience to help guide a technical golfer who has been to a Ryder Cup, but not inside the ropes.

Dustin Johnson & Brooks Koepka– This makes so much sense in so many ways. These two can drive the golf ball for days and just do not get rattled, not to mention Koepka started on the European Tour so will be familiar with the environment.

Tony Finau & Phil Mickelson– Finau could easily be in a Keegan Bradley spot where a rookie in the event goes with the most experienced player on the course and excels. Mickelson would bring out the best in a player who is used to the cameras and has been so rock solid, especially in the big events.

Rickie Fowler & Justin Thomas– These two are such good friends and compliment each other well. This pairing makes sense in so many ways and in a foursomes format that would be especially beneficial.

Webb Simpson & Bubba Watson– This is more than just these two being the last pairing. Watson would be able to take some risks, while Simpson could stay within the confines of his game and making the proper shots. Watson is also willing to try and fire a crowd out and Simpson will remain even keeled.

Photo credit: PGA TOUR Twitter

Author: Zac Weiss