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Bisher: Who is this major champion Bradley?

Furman Bisher

Furman Bisher

Jim Thome hits his 600th home run, at last. The Braves beat “The Beard,” otherwise known as Brian Wilson. The New York Stock Exchange opened on schedule Monday. With the game of golf, though, the PGA Championship was still trying to get its head back on straight, and asking itself, “Just who is this kid, Keegan Bradley?” And for that matter, just who was Keegan?

Bradley first came to attention when he found himself in a playoff at the Byron Nelson tournament in Texas. He won, though suffice it to say it was a gift. His rival, Ryan Palmer, a seasoned touring pro, knocked his approach into the water and all Bradley had to do was sink a short putt. His winning margin was something less than dramatic, just three under par, shortest winning score of the year. He was 24 years old then. He’s 25 now, as of June 7. Would he ever be heard from again? Just stick around. Sunday afternoon at Atlanta Athletic Club — on a golf course dealing excessively in water torture — this Bradley had left the 15th green five over par after a triple bogey. Five over par and three holes to play. Dead in the water, so to speak.

Behind him, though, Jason Dufner, a player without distinction, was in the lead, but about to take the gas. And in the long run, you know by now that Keegan Bradley is the PGA Championship winner, and getting more than the average amount of national attention. He goes to bed with his newly-wed Wanamaker Trophy, the Stanley Cup and Heisman Trophy of golf, and all those other badges of honor.

Before Bradley, the other most unlikely winner of the PGA probably — excluding last year at Whistling Straits, when Dustin Johnson self-destructed — was a young shop assistant from Albany, N.Y., named Tom Creavy. That was when the PGA Championship was decided in match play, and Tom, just 20 years old, beat the veteran Denny Shut — now in the Golf Hall of Fame — in the deciding match, then returned to his place behind the counter at Albany, and his resumed obscurity, that in 1931.

There were some odd finalists in those days, such as the year Chandler Harper beat Henry Williams Jr., and Walter Burkemo beat Felice Torza. You know, pros who played only when they could get away from the shop. But Keegan Bradley is a different story. Out of college, onto the Hooters Tour, and qualified for the Big Tour as an 11th-place finisher on the Nationwide Tour. At least Tom Creavy had a job, Bradley had to sing for his supper, so to speak.

Well, his world is in a whirl now, and no need to even speculate just where he’ll be a year from now. After all, there are those still writing and dreaming of the day Tiger Woods will bounce back. Keegan Bradley isn’t enough?

Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. The longtime Atlanta sports journalist is a member of the Georgia and Atlanta Sports Halls of Fame and in addition to his newspaper writing has authored multiple books on major figures like Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He writes periodic columns for the Daily Post.