Keegan Bradley: Holding the Memories, Envisioning the Future

At last year’s HP Byron Nelson Championship, Keegan Bradley came out of nowhere to beat Ryan Palmer in a playoff.

It made for very interesting viewing because once the playoff began, Bradley’s victory seemed inevitable. All day long, local boy Palmer managed to hold onto his vision for his victory. He looked bigger than life and, well, like the champion. But in the playoff, he appeared vulnerable and the tempo of things a little quicker. He hit it in the hazard on 18 and Bradley won.

Fast forward to this year and, lo and behold, there’s Keegan Bradley at 5-under after 36 holes and just two shots out of Jason Dufner’s lead. This is not an accident or a coincidence.

Once you’ve accomplished something, you remove all the mystery that you thought was shrouding your goal. You come to see that there was no shroud, only your lack of consciousness, only your inability to stay in the moment on each and every shot. Your inability to stay riveted to your target and the shot that you intend to hit to it.

If your mind strays, you think there’s some mysterious shroud, some knowledge you don’t have that would unlock the door, some experience where you could at least get a glimpse of it.

Usually it is experience that finally unlocks the door, not because of some unknown secret, but because you’ve gotten to the place where you are “callous” enough from the experience that you can finally pay undivided attention to your game. You disregard all of the extraneous thoughts that come up. You discover that the secret is that there is no secret.

Then comes the Phase II, reconciling yourself to the fact that it wasn’t some sort of fluke, that you did, indeed, deserve the win.

In Keegan Bradley’s case, he did that in spades when he went on to win the PGA Championship just three months later. So now he knows that the first win wasn’t a fluke and that winning is replicable.

And thus begins Phase III, coming back to the scene of your first victory and winning it again. With the two wins behind you and returning to a course you’ve already won on, all you’re thinking about is getting into that “secret” mind-state that would allow you to win again. As you imagine it, you call up all of the sensory cues; the heat, the wind, the smells, the roars from the crowd.

It is one thing for those thoughts to flash through your mind, it is quite another to be able to sustain them. They need to be sustained because they are the propellant that moves you  through the present to that future you envision. Intention is a powerful thing.

So it will be very interesting to see how Bradley fares over the weekend. We know from watching him play that there is an intensity about his demeanor as he plays. And that intensity is the kind of thing that will allow him to keep the vision for his future right out there in front of him. As I said, it’s no surprise that he’s just “right there.”

And it’s also no real surprise that the aforementioned Ryan Palmer is in the group of six players one stroke in front of Bradley. Apparently, there are a lot of players who can sustain the vision…at least through 36 holes. Saturday, Palmer will be playing in the last threesome with his childhood friend and current neighbor, Chad Campbell and, of course, Dufner.

And Dufner has his own secret weapon, his ability to remain philosophical in the face of adversity like, for example, the heavy winds that have kept scores higher:

Jason, was there any point in the last 24 hours or so that you thought, geez, maybe I got the wrong end of the draw here?

You know, that happens.  I didn’t think of it that way.  You don’t know how it’s going to be until you’re out on the golf course.  Maybe afterwards you would think something like that.  I was out putting this morning about 9:30, 9:45 and it was blowing pretty consistent then, too, so I’m sure the guys this morning had some tough conditions, also.  As many bad draws as you get you will get as many good draws over your career, so it’s just something that you have to go with.  There is not much you can do about what Mother Nature is throwing at you.

That’s why I have affectionately referred to him as, “My favorite slacker-dude, stoic.” I like his chances this week too. Not only because of his attitude, but because he thinks he’s playing well:

Feels good.  My game has been consistent, yesterday was probably the best ball striking round I’ve ever had.  I putted more than I hit the golf ball, I had 34 putts, I hit the ball 33 times, and that doesn’t happen very often.  I feel good about my game.  Usually when you’re feeling good you’re going to go into the weekend leading or close to the lead, and I’ve been fortunate to be in that position, closed out one a couple of weeks ago, haven’t played quite as well in others, but hopefully the experience that I had New Orleans will build for me and I will have confidence going into the weekend.

Which brings us back full circle to “Holding the Memories, Envisioning the Future.” I can’t wait to see how they all do.

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One Response to Keegan Bradley: Holding the Memories, Envisioning the Future

  1. jeff glosser says:

    Very articulate analysis of what it takes to win–and keep winning. This applies to all of life.