2022 U.S. Open: Keegan Bradley has chance to create epic Boston sports memory

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Keegan Bradley has chance to create epic Boston sports memory at U.S. Open originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

BROOKLINE, Mass. -- One of Keegan Bradley's favorite Boston sports moments was watching Tom Brady and the New England Patriots win their first Super Bowl title 20 years ago. He was with his dad in the basement of their home in Vermont.

And now on a Father's Day Sunday, he has a chance to create his own legendary Boston sports memory by winning the 2022 U.S. Open at The Country Club.

Bradley, who went to high school in Hopkinton, Mass., is just two strokes back of the lead after shooting a 1-under par in Saturday's third round. He's 2-under par through 54 holes.

He will be the fan favorite Sunday. That was made very clear as the 36-year-old walked up the fairway on the 18th hole as his third round concluded.

A loud roar and chants of "Keegan! Keegan! Keegan!" were belted from the fans in what was the most emotional moment of the tournament so far.

"That walk up 18 was the best I've ever felt at a tournament," Bradley said. "That was really cool. It's got a British Open feel, that 18th. It really does. They've done an incredible job.

"It was nice that I hit a good shot in there, so I could kind of walk up, and I told myself, let's try to enjoy this walk up 18 today because it's been a hard-fought day. Let's take this in, and I didn't know they were going to do that, and it just made it that much better."

Bradley's third round started out poorly. He bogeyed three of the first six holes to fall back to 2-over par. But from that point, Bradley dug in and found his game. Birdies on the 8th and 9th holes sparked the turnaround.

"Yeah, I made this putt on 9 today, and the crowd really went -- I walked up to the green, and the crowd really went crazy for me, and then I made the putt, and they went wild," Bradley said. "It really gave me a jolt of energy. It put me on a path to, all right, we no longer are trying to save this round. Let's try to get ourselves into contention here, and I did that."

After another bogey on No. 10, Bradley birdied the 13th, 14th and 17th holes. Bradley was one of just seven golfers to shoot below par on a day with less-than-ideal weather conditions.

Bradley feels very much feels like he's the hometown player. As someone who grew up wanting to play in Gillette Stadium, Fenway Park or TD Garden, the walkup on No. 18 was as close as he'll get to experiencing that thrill.

"As a kid, I dream of playing in front of Boston fans and being a Patriot or being in the Garden," Bradley said. "Most of the time I'm playing across the world or the country, and I'm by myself, and every now and then I'm in Hartford and I get to feel that, or in a Ryder Cup. Out here today felt like I was in a home game, which is something that as a kid, it's a dream."

Win or lose, Sunday will probably be one of the most emotional days of Bradley's career. Not only does he have to play well at an extremely challenging golf course, he also has to manage his emotions. Bradley won a major tournament in 2011 at the PGA Championship, so this kind of pressure is not unfamiliar to him.

That walk up 18 was the best I've ever felt at a tournament. That was really cool.

Keegan Bradley on the reception he received at the 18th hole

But going for a major championship win in this setting, with lots of family and friends in attendance is a new kind of challenge. He feels pretty comfortable, though, which is an encouraging sign.

"Well, tomorrow is going to be a tough day. I know that. It just is. It would be if I was playing in Tulsa," Bradley explained. "But playing here, it's going to be intense, but I've had this weird sense of calm over me this week. I don't know if that will be here tomorrow or not, but I just have to try to just put one foot in front of the other.

"Honestly, that's all the silly cliches we all say. I'm playing really well, and I really feel comfortable on this course.

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