The best part of Keegan Bradley’s day came after carding 64 in opening round at Valspar Championship

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Tom D’Angelo, Palm Beach Post
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PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Keegan Bradley just equaled his finest round of golf in 18 months during what he called “an all-around great day” that was “basically zero stress.”

And the best part of his Thursday had yet to come.

After a 7-under 64 that gave the Jupiter resident a two-shot lead after one round at the Valspar Championship, Bradley was back to the real life … being a husband and a dad.

Keegan and his wife, Jillian, crossed the state along with sons, Logan, 3, and Cooper, 3 months, to enjoy what has started out to be a nice relaxing week on the Gulf Coast. Now, if the rest of the week goes the way it started and the only stress Keegan faces is making sure Logan eats his vegetables and Cooper gets his naps, this definitely will be a memorable family vacation.

“I’ll go back today and, doesn’t matter what I shoot, I got to go be a dad and play baseball and play golf in the backyard, which I look forward to,” said Bradley, who called his family his “good luck charm.”

Valspar: Check the yardage book | Leaderboard | Photos

Shooting a bogey free round has to make Dad Time a bit sweeter. Especially on a Copperhead Course that the two-time defending champion, Paul Casey, said is “as good and as tough as it’s ever been.”

Bradley, the nephew of LPGA Hall of Famer Pat Bradley, burst on the PGA Tour scene early, winning twice as a rookie in 2011, including the PGA Championship. That was a thrill only equaled by the Vermont native receiving a text that day from one of his sports heroes, Tom Brady, who, Keegan says, would be part of his dream foursome along with his dad and Ben Hogan. That Wannamaker Trophy then sat on the floor in his Jupiter home topped by a Red Sox cap.

Although Bradley, 34, admits that major title “changed my life forever,” it also ratcheted up the spotlight and expectations. After being named PGA Tour rookie of the year, Keegan won again in 2012 (WGC-Bridgestone Invitational) and cracked the top 10 of the World Golf Ranking (No. 10) in 2013.

That victory at the WCG event was 229 starts ago. Since then, Bradley has one win (2018 BMW Championship, with his family on site) and his world ranking has dropped to 135.

Few have had their careers altered over a rule change as much as Bradley. In 2016, the practice of anchoring a putter was banned. Bradley, who used a belly putter, was the first golfer to win a major using an anchored putter. The putter was part of a package that also earned Bradley spots in the Ryder Cup and President’s Cup teams.

Bradley was outspoken about not being able to use something he had adopted, not as a crutch, but as part of his game.

And as Bradley’s putting suffered, so too did his game. In 26 events in 2016, he had two top 10s (the fewest of his career) and missed a career-high 11 cuts. Bradley’s game has ebbed and flowed in the last five years, but something has clicked the last three months, and Bradley knows exactly what it is.

“When you putt poorly, golf isn’t that much fun,” Bradley said. “But I’ve been putting very well since Phoenix.”

Since missing back-to-back cuts in January, Bradley has played in seven tournaments, starting with the Phoenix Open in early February, and finished in the top 30 six times. He’s coming off a T-4 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and had a T-10 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The key to Bradley’s quick start Thursday was simple. Of his seven birdies, three were accomplished by sinking putts of more than 17 feet. He dropped consecutive putts of at least 30 feet on the 14th and 15th holes.

Bradley shot a 30 on the back nine.

“The putter’s been a lot better,” he said. “After I won, putting went into a pretty big dip and I had to kind of work my way out of it again. I feel like I’m on the other side of that right now.”

Bradley credits a lot of work with his coach, Darren May, and caddie, Scotty Vail, for rediscovering his putting stroke.

“I got a lot of good things going my way right now,” he said. “A really fun day.”

On and off the course.