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Inside the Ropes: Bradley ready to deal with winds, future putter change

The SportsXchange

After the opening event of the PGA Tour season was almost blown off the calendar, the tradewinds are not expected to be nearly as strong this week for the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae.

And if they are, Keegan Bradley is ready.

"I felt really good all week (at Kapalua)," Bradley said of tying for fourth on Tuesday in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions on the windswept Plantation Course, where it took four days simply to get in the first round.

"I've worked a lot with Jim McLean (on playing in the wind). I won my first tournament in 35-mile-an-hour winds. I never considered myself a bad wind player.

"Everything's really difficult, but the putting is really tough. I was purposely missing on the side of (the hole) where I would have an uphill putt. I would rather have 7, 8 feet uphill into the wind than 3 (feet) downwind, downgrain. It's a challenge out there for sure.

"Yeah, I consider myself a good wind player."

Bradley's first PGA victory came in the 2011 Byron Nelson Championship on that day he referred to, when the wind was gusting to 35 mph, and he followed it up with a playoff victory over Jason Dufner two months later in the PGA Championship.

Last year, the 26-year-old validated his position as one of the best players in golf's next generation when he captured the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, coming from four strokes back with a closing 64 to beat Jim Furyk by one shot.

Sure, Furyk stumbled with a double bogey on the final hole, but Bradley applied the pressure with his charge, which ended with a 15-foot birdie putt at No. 18.

That, and making the U.S. Ryder Cup team, have made him finally believe that he belongs.

"I just kind of see myself more as one of the guys now," said Bradley, who teamed with Phil Mickelson for a 3-0 doubles mark at the Ryder Cup. "Somebody that can contend a majority of the time that they tee it up. ...

"Especially after the Ryder Cup, I've really felt like I've gotten to know the guys more. At any level of my sporting career, whether it's skiing or golf, I've never made friends with the guys that I've been out here with, and I'm starting to do that now. And it's making my life out here a lot more enjoyable because I can get very introverted out here and lock myself in my room and eat room service and come to the course and play and go back.

"And I feel like I belong out here, and it's making me feel a lot more comfortable at the golf courses."

Bradley, who has used a belly putter for five years, since his college days at St. John's, naturally is at the center of the ban of anchored putters proposed by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and the United States Golf Association. He made comments that seemed to indicate he might take legal action if his putter were outlawed.

"You know, I never said that," said Bradley, who was the first player to win a major championship with an anchored putter. "I never said the word 'sue,' I never said the word 'legal action.' Somehow it got twisted around into that.

"Obviously I'm not happy with the ruling, but I respect the USGA, and especially (executive director) Mike Davis. They make the rules, and I'll adjust appropriately. But I'm going to accept the challenge and hopefully do well when they do ban it. ...

"I grew up using a short putter. I'm still going to have to wait and hear what the rules are before I can make a full decision. But yeah, I'm going to embrace the challenge and try. I've had success with a short putter, too. It'll be an adjustment, but one that I think that I can handle."

At the Target World Challenge in December, after the announcement that the proposed ban would go into effect in 2016, Bradley was heckled by a fan in the gallery for "cheating."

About the same time, another fan sent Keegan a message on Twitter, suggesting that he should get his Burger King application ready for 2016.

Obviously, the guy hasn't taken notice of the rest of Bradley's game, or his gumption, regardless of the wind conditions.

COMING UP

PGA TOUR: Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii, Thursday through Monday.

TV: Thursday through Saturday, 7-10:30 p.m. EST; Sunday, 7-10 p.m. EST on the Golf Channel each day.

Last year: Johnson Wagner shot 3-under-par 67 in difficult, windy conditions in the final round to earn a two-stroke victory over Harrison Frazar, Charles Howell III, Carl Pettersson and Sean O'Hair. Wagner, who claimed his third victory on the PGA Tour, was one of six players who held at least a share of the lead in the final round, but he pulled ahead by playing the last 12 holes in a bogey-free 4 under. O'Hair, who also shot 67, had a chance to force a playoff, but he barely missed a 30-foot eagle putt on the 72nd hole. Frazar took a one-stroke lead with a birdie on the 10th hole, but he finished with eight consecutive pars for another 67. Howell, who shot 69, had his only three birdies of the day on the back nine, and they only got him close.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai Golf Course in Ka'upulehu-Kona, Hawaii, Jan. 18-20.

TV: 7:30-10 p.m. EST, on the Golf Channel each day.

LAST YEAR: Dan Forsman overcame windy conditions in the final round by shooting 3-under-par 72 to beat Jay Don Blake by two strokes for his third Champions Tour victory after winning five times on the PGA Tour. Defending champion John Cook and Michael Allen tied for third, another stroke back. The 53-year-old Forsman opened with rounds of 67-65 to build a two-stroke lead, protecting that margin by carding three birdies in the first 10 holes of the final round. He overcame his only bogey, at No. 12, with another birdie two holes later.

LPGA TOUR: LPGA-ISPS Handa Women's Australia Open at Royal Canberra Golf Club in Canberra, Australia, Feb. 14-17.

TV: Thursday and Friday, 12:30-2:30 p.m. EST; Saturday and Sunday, 3-6 p.m., on the Golf Channel each day.

LAST YEAR: Jessica Korda holed a 25-foot birdie putt on the second hole of a record-tying playoff with five other golfers to claim her first LPGA Tour victory at Royal Melbourne. The 18-year-old Korda, whose father Petr won the Australian Open tennis championship in 1998, took a one-stroke lead into the final round and held the top spot until faltering with bogeys on the 14th, 15th and 16th holes. She needed a birdie on No. 17 to shoot 2-over-par 74 and get into the playoff with Brittany Lincicome, Stacy Lewis, Julieta Granada of Paraguay, and South Koreans Hee Kyung Seo and So Yeon Ryu.

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