Bryant flying high since playoff loss to Haas last year
Some players never recover from a heartbreaking playoff defeat, especially in a major championship. But Brad Bryant has thrived since losing a playoff to Jay Haas in last year's Senior PGA Championship. Hot off a win last week, Bryant comes to the Ocean Course full of confidence and ready to win his first major.
By T.J. Auclair, PGATOUR.com Interactive Producer
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- One year after being defeated in a three-hole playoff by Jay Haas in the Senior PGA Championship, Brad Bryant returns to the same tournament -- different venue -- as the hottest player on the 50-and-over circuit.
Bryant, one of the most humble men in golf, successfully defended his title at the Regions Charity Classic last week on the Champions Tour in Alabama -- in a three-hole playoff, coincidentally, over R.W. Eaks.
After his defeat at the hands of Haas in the 2006 Senior PGA Championship at Oak Tree Golf Club in Edmond, Okla., one would think Bryant might have been a little stung. The chance of a first major victory slid through his hands much the same way as his 4-footer for par slid by the left side of the cup to extend the playoff to a fourth hole. Instead of sulking when he met with the media afterwards, Bryant sounded like the president of the Haas fan club.
"Jay will be a great champion for this championship," he said. "And I think that that's good. It's good to have a major player win a major championship. Not that I wouldn't be a great champion, but you know, when you look at that time, Jay's been such a great player for such a long time, he deserves a major. He deserves a major, quite honestly, more than I do. I'm glad he won. He's a tremendous man."
The game of golf has always been one of class, for ladies and gentleman. But Bryant's kind words for Haas, who tallied his first major championship win that day, spoke volumes for the man he is.
For instance, does he ever think about his legacy and name as it applies to golf history?
"I don't need a legacy," said Bryant, who won once in his career on the PGA TOUR. "I've got a legacy that's Jamison and Jonathan [his two sons]. That's good enough for me. It is my fondest dream that in 10 years it won't matter what I've done. I just hope that my sons, that they go on to do what they want to do and that they have good lives. Other than that, who cares? ... Fifty years from now it won't matter. There are other things that are a lot more important than winning golf tournaments."
Want more? Bryant lists his biggest thrills in golf as watching his younger brother, Bart, win the 2004 Valero Texas Open and the 2005 Memorial Tournament and TOUR Championship on the PGA TOUR. Bart is also his favorite athlete.
In 2006, Bryant finished third on the season-ending Champions Tour money list behind Haas and Loren Roberts. He enters this week at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course in the same position.
With the way he's played since the 2006 Senior PGA Championship -- last week's win, along with seven top-fives -- is Bryant deserving of donning the tag of major champion the way he thought Haas was a year ago?
"I don't know about deserving," he said. "I sure hope I win one. I don't know. There are certain players that you feel like they really deserve something like that, because of what they've meant to the game. And Jay is one of those guys. I was, honestly, I was very happy for Jay last year. I was elated that he won.
"I really wanted to win. Right now I would say that I'm playing the type of golf for the last year and a half that it takes to win this type of event… As far as deserving that title, we don't deserve half of the stuff we get out here on the Champions Tour. We're pretty spoiled. We get a whole lot more than what we deserve."
A win is never easy to come by, but it will be especially difficult to snatch here at one of designer Pete Dye's gems, the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort.
It's been written that there's probably no other course in the world outside of the United Kingdom and Ireland that's affected by the wind as much as the Ocean Course. Sometimes there can be as much as an eight-club wind.
This could make life interesting for Bryant. He arrived on Kiawah Island on Tuesday and wasn't set to see the entire course until Wednesday -- one day before the tournament tees off. Surprisingly, he's not worried about his lack of course knowledge.
"Not knowing where most of the trouble is might be good," he said. "Sometimes ignorance is bliss. I don't know, having not seen the course, I don't know. But generally Tony [his caddie] and I learn the course pretty quick. And having the two of us work together as a team really helps. That makes a big difference. So I feel like we'll probably learn the golf course fairly quickly. I'll try to play a few holes this afternoon, when Tony gets here, and then play some tomorrow morning. Really it's more about getting a feel for the type of golf course and the way it plays, than it is knowing the holes and knowing where to hit and not to hit and things like that. By Friday we'll have the golf course pretty well figured out, I hope."
With the way Bryant's been playing since his runner-up finish a year ago, he'll probably have it figured out just fine.