New kid on the PGA block

Keegan Bradley reacts after making a birdie putt on the 17th hole during the final round of the PGA...

Keegan Bradley reacts after making a birdie putt on the 17th hole during the final round of the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga., Aug. 14, 2011. (JEFF HAYNES/Reuters)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:16 AM ET

JOHNS CREEK, GA. - A fist-pumping guy in a red shirt won one of golf’s majors.

Rookie Keegan Bradley, in his first start in a major, captured the 93rd PGA Championship by beating Jason Dufner in a three-hole aggregate playoff.

The debate can now begin: Did Bradley win it or did Dufner lose it?

The fact is with his win, his second this year, Bradley can add his name to the list of more heralded young players like Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler as kids rising up to fill the void created by the absence of Tiger Woods at the top of golf’s food chain.

“It’s cool to be thought of along with those guys,” said the 25-year-old Bradley, who said he’s always kind of flown under the radar.

He’s a Vermont kid who has golf in his blood lines (his dad is a PGA club pro and he’s the nephew of LPGA Hall of Famer Pat Bradley) and went to St. John’s University in Queen’s, not exactly a thought of as a golf power.

“I’m so proud of the way I played. It’s the best golf I’ve ever played. Man, it was so exciting,” he said.

Bradley showed some real game on the Atlanta Athletic Club’s brutal closing holes.

He rebounded from a triple-bogey six at the par-3 15th hole with birdies on the next two holes. Dufner stood on the tee of the 15th watching Bradley make his triple and had a four-shot lead at the time.

Dufner, who was single-handedly bringing back the club waggle and the Beatles haircut, had been imperturbable to that point. He was making a dour guy like Retief Goosen look like Dane Cook. But he rinsed his tee shot on 15 for a bogey, couldn’t get up and down on 16 from a bunker and three-putted the 17th to lose his lead in the face of Bradley’s rebound. Dufner parred the 18th as he and Bradley finished eight-under in the tournament after 18 holes Sunday.

Bradley, who became the first men's major winner using a belly putter, continued his great work on the greens in the playoff, knocking in a birdie on 16 while Dufner parred. Bradley took a two-shot lead when Dufner three-putted 17 for the second-straight go-round.

Bradley ran the string of first-time major-winners to seven, the longest in history. He becomes the first American to win a major in seven tries.

Dufner, who lost in a playoff for the second time this year and is still looking for his first win, was a classy loser.

“First off, hats off to Keegan coming in there the last three holes,” said the 34-year-old, who had looked so cool on the course, but whose voice betrayed his emotion afterwards.

The shot that makes him cringe is not the tee ball on 15, but a pushed 4-iron from 213 yards into the bunker on his approach on 16.

“I should hit that green. Didn’t,” he said. “Probably one of the worst iron shots I hit all week.”

It’s hard not to like Dufner after the way he handled the loss. When asked if he was worried about being one of those guys who have that one great chance to win a major and then never do, he replied, “I’m not a history buff as far as golf goes. I know the media tries to define careers on certain players. You did this and you didn’t do this. I’m not into that. I just play golf. I love playing golf. I love the competition and I want to be as good as I can be.

“If that’s 20th in the world with no majors or first in the world with 10 majors or never to win a Tour event, I’ll be fine with it.

“I’m not going to let this define my career.”

With an attitude like that, it won’t.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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