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Inside the Ropes: Bradley never tires of Firestone

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Keegan Bradley has won three times in his PGA Tour career, and the quality of his victories is impressive.

Two of the wins came in the 2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the 2011 PGA Championship, which just happen to be the next two events on the schedule.

Bradley is back at Firestone to defend his WGC title this week before moving on to the final major of the season next week at Oak Hill.

"I'm thrilled to come back this year and defend at Akron," Bradley said of the tournament Tiger Woods has won a record seven times. "I think a lot of players would say it's their favorite event of the year, one of their favorite courses to play.

"It was just an unbelievable week (last year). And I got to have a chance on the last hole to win the tournament, which doesn't happen very often. I'm very proud to be part of the past champions of that course, for sure, with a lot of the best names that have ever played the game. It's a really special place for me, and (I'm) excited to come back.

"Akron and Firestone Country Club has some of the best history that we have in golf. ... You look at the names that have all won and played there, and Tiger, he's won there a million times. Any time you walk around that clubhouse, and they have the pictures of all the champions up there, it's anybody you've ever heard of. So the history of the course and the golf course and the town, it's really one of the special events that we get to play in."

Bradley, whose first PGA Tour victory came in the 2011 HP Byron Nelson Championship, won by one stroke at Firestone last year when he holed a 16-foot putt for par to complete a 6-under-par 64 before Jim Furyk blew a one-stroke lead by finishing with a double bogey.

Even though he has not won since, Bradley has had a solid season with six finishes in the top 10, including second in the HP Byron Nelson, where he could not hold the 54-hole lead and wound up two shots behind Sang-Moon Bae.

However, he knows there is plenty of golf left this year, including the PGA Tour playoffs.

"It's brutal, because it's a marathon, not a sprint," Bradley said. "I'm coming to realize that you're going to have good months and you're going to have bad months. It's tough, because you feel like you should play well every week.

"It's very difficult, because you go to a new city, different type of grass, you go to short courses, long courses. So there's going to be some up and downs. I think the best players in the world don't have as many up-and-down years. They are the guys that you see every week that are consistent, and that's what makes them great.

"You're going to have some tough weeks, and it's tough to stay mentally sharp, because you can start getting upset and getting down on yourself, but the great players bounce back and play well."

There are those who believe it was Bradley who started the ball rolling on the decision by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and the United States Golf Association to ban anchored putters, effective Jan. 1, 2016.

When Bradley captured the 2011 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club with his belly putter, he became the first player to win a major championship using an anchored putter.

Last year, Webb Simpson followed by winning the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club and Ernie Els won the Open Championship, both with belly putters, before Adam Scott pounded in the final nail by winning the Masters earlier this year with a putter anchored to his chest.

Bradley and others considered legal action, but now he is reconciled to the fact that he will have to make a change.

"I don't agree with what the USGA is saying, but I do respect what they are trying to do," said Bradley, who has used the belly putter since 2008. "They are trying to protect the game in different ways, which is what they think they need to do in terms of the putter.

"In 2016, when it comes time to make a change, I'll do that. There's one thing I never doubt, and it's my work ethic. I'm not afraid to put time in, and once the time comes for me to switch to a different putter, I'll be ready to do it.

"I haven't even put much thought into it. During this offseason when I have a little time where I'm not playing every week, maybe I'll come up with a plan."

For now, he'd like to belly up to a few more victories.

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