CROMWELL, Conn. – On Wednesday afternoon, Keegan Bradley said he was having a hard time getting ready to play competitive golf again after the draining effects of grinding through the U.S. Open last weekend at Chambers Bay. This was true even though the sight of green grass on something actually fit to be called a green was a welcome sight when he first arrived at TPC River Highlands.
"After coming from last week, the course looks so green," Bradley said after his first peek at River Highlands. "The greens look so perfect. Just to see the ball rolling on the greens is amazing.
"The U.S. Open takes so much out of you, especially at Chambers Bay, physically and mentally. It was a grind. So it's tough to get going, especially Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. You're just exhausted. Definitely this is one of the tougher weeks of the year to get yourself excited and ready to play."
On Thursday morning, the Woodstock, Vt., native and former Hopkinton High star must have been listening to Dinah Washington belting out her old standard "What A Difference A Day Makes" on the iPod on his way to teeing off in the first round of the Travelers Championship, because it took him only four holes to shake off the Chambers Bay blues and register the first of his six birdies on the day. He had four in the first nine holes to shoot an opening round 6-under 64, 2 shots behind two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson.
Despite being joined by Harris English and relative unknowns Brian Stuard, Jason Gore and South Korea's Seung-Yul Noh in second place, Bradley finds himself in a favorable position to accomplish a personal as well as professional goal. While winning any week on the PGA Tour is a precious gift, the Travelers holds a special place in the heart of Bradley, who saw his first Tour event here when it was the Greater Hartford Open.
Ever since, his dreams have centered around golf and winning, something he's done three times on Tour, including the 2011 PGA Championship. If the fourth comes this week, he'd be ecstatic and not simply because a win is a win is a win.
"This was always the tournament I came to (as a kid)," Bradley recalled. "This was the first Tour event I ever came to when it was the GHO. I remember following David Duval when he was world No. 1, so a lot of memories of this golf course.
"It's always fun to come to Hartford and the Travelers. The people at Travelers treat us so well. Very proud to come back to New England and play in this tournament. I put a lot of pressure on myself in every tournament to play well, but this one especially just because I've got a lot of people here. I know a lot of the fans are rooting for me to play well. I can feel them out there, so it's always good to go out there and shoot a low one in the opening round.
"There are a handful of events I would love to win. This is one of them."
To do that, Bradley will need three more birdiefests like yesterday because there are more birdies here than you find at the National Aviary. Watson had nine yesterday for example, and no one will ever forget Kevin Streelman closing on Sunday last year with a PGA Tournament record seven straight birdies to win.
That is something Bradley was well aware of before he got here, and he made that clear when he birdied 15, 16 and 18 to kickstart his round, as he'd said would be essential this week.
"Almost every hole, especially on the back, they're birdie holes," Bradley said. "But you can make bogey or worse on every one of them too. You have to be smart, but on those last holes you're going to have to make birdies in order to win the tournament. It's important to be aggressive on those holes in particular."
Yesterday they came on the front side of his round, because he teed off from No. 10 alongside Sergio Garcia and Streelman, and he drilled three of those final four. Obviously, he wasn't alone, which is why he wasn't alone atop the leaderboard either.
That fact hardly surprises Bradley however after last week's Open had left so many of his peers sweating just to make par.
"I think you'll see a lot of guys up on top of the leaderboard that played last week," Bradley said. "It's a relief to be honest (to play a birdie course like River Highlands).
"After last week, when you're just begging for par, it's a nice change of pace. You're ready to come out and make birdies. Today I putted really well. Made pretty much everything inside 10, 15 feet, which you have to do here at Travelers because the scores are so low.
"It's very important here to keep the pedal down all the time. It doesn't matter if you shoot 75 or 60, the next day you've got to shoot low, low, low. I'm going to try to do that."
While always a challenge, that's a lot easier to do on a place where the greens are green and the ball rolls instead of hopping.
This article was written by Ron Borges from Boston Herald and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.