Barely a month after winning the PGA Championship and establishing himself as one of the great clutch players of the year, if not the decade, Bradley returned south to tee off just a few miles from the Atlanta Athletic Club, at the hallowed but far tighter confines of East Lake Golf Club.
And he and PGA Championship rival Jason Dufner picked up right where they left off, spending much of the afternoon 1-2. "I saw that Jason was playing right in front of me today," Bradley said. "I hope I get to play with him. He's a good guy. You know, it would be a lot of fun. I think it's kind of cool that coming back to Atlanta we're going to get to play with each other again, and I hope it happens."
Atlanta may have its share of stomach-churning memories for Dufner, but Bradley is quite at home here, carding a first-round 6-under 64 at the Tour Championship to give himself the clubhouse lead and probably the overnight one, too. The final two pairs were pulled off the course late in the day because of lightning, but unless Luke Donald manages to ace 18, Bradley will have first place all to himself for a night.
Which works for him; this place has embraced him as much as it can a Red Sox fan. "The people of Atlanta during the PGA were unbelievable to me, and they've been unbelievable again this week, even in the practice rounds," he said. "It's cool to hear people say 'I was at the PGA,' or 'good job at the PGA.' For whatever reason, they're really, really nice to me, and I really appreciate it. Without them at the PGA, I probably wouldn't have won."
Bradley has a huge task to win the FedEx Cup; even if he wins the Tour Championship, he'll have to hope that all of the top five suffer some debilitating back-nine spider bites or the like. But as he allowed after his round, he's got his eye on another large prize: the final spot on Fred Couples' Presidents Cup team.
"The cliché is to say that I'm not thinking about it, but literally probably every third hole or maybe even less it pops into my mind," he said. "I really want to be on the team, but I want to earn my way onto the team just like I'm going to have to. If the captain and assistant captains think I've done enough to get on the team, they're going to pick me. And if they don't, that's totally fair, too."
He's staking one indisputable claim in some suddenly very familiar ground. And if he does make it, that could provide some comfort for the impending Red Sox collapse.
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- Boston Red Sox
- PGA Championship
- Jason Dufner
- Atlanta Athletic Club