Keegan Bradley Wins WGC Event Ahead of PGA Championship Defense

Keegan Bradley said he may not have helped his PGA Championship title defense by rallying to win the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational by one stroke.

Bradley shot a 6-under-par 64 during yesterday’s final round at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, where Jim Furyk held the lead until making a double bogey at the last hole. Bradley finished with an overall score of 13 under 267 to claim his third career PGA Tour title.

The 26-year-old Bradley now heads to Kiawah Island, South Carolina, for the Aug. 9-12 PGA Championship, the last of golf’s four annual major tournaments. The previous two times Bradley won an event on tour -- both last year -- he missed the cut for weekend play in his next start.

“My record after I’ve won a tournament isn’t that great,” Bradley, who also won the 2011 Byron Nelson Championship, said at a news conference. “I look forward to the challenge and this is going to be my third time doing it. I’m going to be better equipped for it.”

Bradley said he plans to speak with Phil Mickelson and his aunt, Hall of Fame women’s golfer Pat Bradley, this week about the pressure of following up a victory.

“I remember after I won Nelson and I missed the cut terribly at Memorial, I asked her if she’d ever won back-to-back tournaments,” Bradley said. “She said one time. She said it’s one of the hardest things to do.”

Yesterday, Bradley came to the final hole one stroke behind Furyk, who was seeking to close out a wire-to-wire victory after shooting 63 in the opening round.

Furyk’s Struggles

Furyk hit his approach shot over the green and needed two more shots to get on the putting surface. After Bradley hit out of a bunker and made a 16-foot putt to save par, Furyk missed the hole completely with his five-foot bogey attempt to force a playoff. Afterwards, Furyk dropped his putter to the ground and put his hands on his head in disbelief.

“When things go wrong, it’s an empty pit,” Furyk, 42, said in a televised interview. “There’s no way I should have made any worse than 5 on the last hole and there’s no way I shouldn’t be, at worst, in a playoff. If I put the third shot on the green, I put a lot of pressure on him to make that putt.”

Furyk’s last-hole collapse came less than two months after he blew a final-round lead at the U.S. Open, where he made three bogeys over the last six holes and lost to Webb Simpson.

“The thing I love about golf and this sport is that I have no one else to blame but myself,” said Furyk, who has 16 tour wins. “I’ll go to work and try to get ready for the PGA.”

Furyk dropped into a tie with Steve Stricker at 12-under par, while Louis Oosthuizen finished fourth at 11 under.

‘Dialed in’

Tiger Woods, a seven-time winner of the WGC event, tied for eighth place at 4-under par after a final-round 66.

Woods, a four-time PGA Championship winner, said he heads to Kiawah Island feeling his tee-to-green game is “dialed in” after recovering on the weekend in Akron. He was 2-over par through the first two rounds and tied for 44th place.

“I feel very good about where I’m at,” said Woods, who is the 7-1 favorite of Las Vegas oddsmakers to win the PGA Championship even though he won the last of his 14 major titles in 2008. “I’m excited about it.”

J.J. Henry won his second PGA Tour event and first since 2006 yesterday at the Reno-Tahoe Open in Reno, Nevada.

Henry, 37, finished with 43 points, one better than runner-up Alexandre Rocha under the Modified Stableford scoring system, which awards five points for eagles and two for birdies while subtracting points for bogeys and worse.

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