Keegan Bradley had a pretty good day in the first round of the Deutsche Bank Championship ending up 6 to the good with the TPC Boston. His 65 put him in 2nd alone and two behind Ryan Palmer.
Palmer had a banner day with a 63 and he did it in spite of an opening bogey on the 1st hole. What made it for him was his putting; he had just 21 putts and 15 1-putts. In one interview he said that he got a putting tip from Shawn Stefani. And in another that he had opened up his stance and it was helping him to see the line better, causing me to assume that this was Stefani’s tip.
But back to Bradley. Right now he’s on the outside looking in on the Ryder Cup team. The first nine guys have been selected leaving Captain Tom Watson with three picks which would be numbers 10 through 12 on the points list if he chose to do it that way. That would get him Jason Dufner (if he can resolve his neck injury), Ryan Moore and third-year player and 2014 Byron Nelson winner, Brendon Todd. Bradley is 13th on the list.
He clearly has himself in a good position this week, but he only managed a T53 at last week’s first Playoffs tournament, The Barclays. Is he thinking about the Ryder Cup this week?
“Yeah, every second. When I’m sleeping, I’m dreaming about it. When I wake up, I’m thinking about it. When I’m on the course, I’m thinking about it.”
And he has come up with a way to deal with all of that clatter in his mind:
“But I’ve just made the decision that it’s going to come up and I’m not going to try to block it out. I’m just going to try to embrace it and be aware of those thoughts. The more I try not to think about it the more it comes in. I’m just embracing it. Today felt good.”
The first step in dealing with the clatter, is to notice that it is there when you are trying to pay attention to your golf, when you are trying to be mindful to your shot. You need a clean slate to do that and the Ryder Cup popping into your head is a big distraction. So Bradley is trying to embrace it as inevitable and move back to mindfulness. It’s an iterative process. “Uh! There it is again. Let it go…”
To try to say that you just won’t think of pink elephants doesn’t work. When you acknowledge it — embrace it in Bradley’s terminology — you slowly but surely defuse it. It’s still there, you just order it so that it keeps getting tucked below the golf shot and not above it. And it comes up again and you let it go again.
But Bradley has one other thing on his mind besides making the Ryder Cup. Boston is a home game for him and he provides about 150 tickets for family and friends to come watch him play. A good idea at first, but then he realized that it put him in a fish bowl:
“Well, I think the first couple of years I had trouble with it. But I think now I’ve really embraced it and it’s a lot more fun. I’m a little stressed. But I’m learning how to deal with it. But hearing the cheers today was so fun.”
And he has handled this the same way he’s handled the Ryder Cup, by embracing it. Or, stated another way, by including it.
I once attended a workshop in downtown San Francisco hotel on a lovely Sunday morning. And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a jackhammer began shattering the moment. And our course leader, raising her voice slightly, called out to us, “Just include it.” It is still annoying, but by including it you take away its power to distract you. It’s like a teenager doing homework with the music too loud; they’ve included it and don’t even turn it down if the phone rings.
That’s how Bradley plays so well in front of the home crowd:
“Well, I’m just trying to embrace it. I’m trying not to think about the Ryder Cup. I’m trying to think about all my friends and family that are here. I’m just trying to be aware of. I’m just trying to do the best I can to embrace it. I’m not going to sit up here and say any cliches that I’m not thinking about the Ryder Cup or any of that.”
Plus he’s obviously being watched by Tom Watson:
“I am very aware every second of the day that I’m being watched by the Captain. And I’m just trying to embrace that and be aware of it and enjoy it, if I can.”
And he’s finally gotten to the stage where he has figured out another truth about how to play in the spotlight in front of family and friends:
“I’m just starting to learn how to play in the home state with my family and friends around.”
“I think you just need to not fight — you can’t just try to play well for everybody in the crowd. Because they’d come out here and watch me shoot 85, as much as they’d love seeing me shoot 65. But it is that much more fun to shoot that here with the crowd and the fans.”
And so he moves into Saturday to see what the second day brings.