What a finish for the 93rd edition of the PGA Championship. Keegan Bradley defeated Jason Dufner in an aggregate three-hole playoff to win his first major championship.
This was also the first major he has played, joining Francis Ouimet and Ben Curtis as the only other golfers to win in their major debut.
It was a wild finish. When Keegan Bradley's golf ball went into the water after his chip on the 15th hole, I looked at the shot of Jason Dufner on the TV and said this is your tournament to lose.
Little did I know, he would do just that. Literally, he lost the tournament being four-up with four holes to go. I was already setting myself to write this article based on Jason Dufner’s win.
What a turn of events. With the new result, it is a lot different and a bit more difficult, to rank where Bradley’s performance ranks all-time.
I’ve always said, there are two ways people mainly use to rank all-time the performances at any tournament. They would rank purely based on the strokes or score related to par performance or on the entertainment factor.
To me, in order to rank a performance, I like to combine both factors. And that ranking is just related to that tournament in that specific time when it happened. Not a reflection of that player’s past or potential future career.
Where do you think Keegan Bradley performance ranks all-time?
To rank Bradley’s performance, let’s use the score related to par, because depending on the course, the par strokes change. Let's just start from 1981, when the tournament was played here for the first time.
The other two times it was held here, David Toms had 15-under par and Larry Nelson seven-under. So Bradley is right between them at eight-under. On the past 30 editions, his score ranks tied for 18th with four others.
He did play a tough course, but still, so have been most of the other editions. He did a great job on getting to eight-under. He was the second best player tee-to-green all week.
But when you see Tiger’s 18-under twice at Valhalla and Medinah, or Toms 15-under here—granted the course has changed—they were incredible performances.
We can also mention Steve Elkington’s ridiculous 17-under in 1995 or Lee Trevino’s 15-under in 1984 or even the win that a lot of people are comparing to this, Hal Sutton’s 10-under in 1983.
If you want to make a case of scores across the individual four rounds, eight players during that time shot all four rounds in the 60s.
Turning now to how entertaining or enjoyable was this victory, then you can make a case for it, up to some degree.
Bradley was three-over after three holes. He finished Thursday at one-over. He had the remarkable six-under on Friday and then clawed his way up with a one-under and two-under final round.
The final round, which is where all the theatrics come into play, had all the makings of a great one here. Even when it was not two big names battling it out. It was not Woods and May, Nicklaus and Casper or Floyd and Player.
Bradley was not catching a legend, like Y.E.Yang did overtaking Tiger Woods in 2009 when Woods had never lost when leading after 54 holes. Or David Toms in 2001 holding a hard charging Phil Mickelson.
It was Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner, a tour rookie and a winless veteran. But it was fun to watch. Maybe if they would have been in the same final pairing, this could have been even better.
After Bradley’s triple at the 15th, many tuned out. It apparently was over. I think even Jason Dufner thought so. Otherwise, he would have never tried that horrible shot and aimed right like everybody else.
You have to give Bradley credit after that triple. He could have easily folded his tent and played for second. But it was Bradley’s gutsy play and resilience that kept him there waiting for a possible fall from the leader.
And the way he played the playoff was outstanding. In the first playoff hole, right after Dufner’s second shot brushes the hole, he hits a monumental shot.
Two holes later on 18th, he could have emulated Toms in 2001 and laid up. But no, he went for it and landed just two yards after the water hazard, within 18 feet of the hole.
The theatrics were right up there with the best of them. If you don’t think so, just replay the fist-pump and the roar of the crown after his birdie on 17th in regulation.
You didn’t see that with anybody else other than Tiger in the past.
I don’t want to take away from Bradley’s performance. I personally think he is a legitimate major champion and we haven’t seen the best of him yet. It was a great story and a very good win for Bradley.
But when the dust clears and you really analyze the performance, you see that it came down more to Jason Dufner crashing down in the final four holes more than what Bradley did.
When you talk about the result of this championship, you will always start by saying that Bradley was down four with four to go. And that after Dufner went ice cold on 15th, his chances started.
This was a gutsy performance from a player that showed no tentativeness and a lot of resiliency by scratching his way to the win. But I don’t consider this a performance to be ranked in the top 10 during the past 30 years and much less of all time.