Keegan Bradley survived a spate of late bogeys to claim an emotional victory on Sunday at the Travelers Championship, the PGA Tour event in Connecticut that the New Englander considers his home tournament.
Bradley led by six strokes after back-to-back birdies at the 11th and 12th and even three bogeys in the space of four holes — starting with a tee shot into the water at 13 — couldn’t prevent him from lifting the trophy.
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His two-under par 68 was good enough for a tournament-record total of 23-under par 257 at TPC River Highlands, where he bettered the previous tournament record of 258 and beat Zac Blair and Brian Harman by three shots.
“This is for all the kids who grew up in New England, got to sit through the winters and watch other people play golf,” said Bradley, who attended the tournament in Cromwell, Connecticut, as a child. “I just am so proud to win this tournament.”
There was a last bit of drama at the 18th, where Bradley’s approach settled under a spectator’s folding canvas chair.
But by then the challenges of his rivals had faded and a beaming Bradley marched to the green with his arm raised in salute to cheering fans.
As low scores continued to proliferate, Blair — playing on a major medical exemption after missing two seasons with a shoulder injury — grabbed his share of second with an eight-under par 62. Harman carded a second straight 64.
World number four Patrick Cantlay applied some late pressure as Bradley began to struggle, stringing together three straight bridies at 13, 14 and 15 to reach 21-under, but he bogeyed 16 and 18 to sign for a 67 that left him tied for fourth on 261.
He was joined by world number one Scottie Scheffler, who carded a 65, and Chez Reavie, who trailed by one entering the final round but settled for a one-over 71.
Rory McIlroy, coming off his one-shot loss to Wyndham Clark in the US Open, carded a 64 and was tied with Denny McCarthy on 262.
After three birdies in his first six holes, Bradley looked like he could be poised to break the PGA Tour’s 72-hole scoring record of 253 set by Justin Thomas at the Sony Open in 2017.
He stuck his tee shot at the par-three 11th within three feet for birdie and rolled in a nine-foot birdie at the 12th to reach 26-under.
It was a continuation of the form he’d shown all week, after working with his coach in the wake of a missed cut at the US Open.
“Something clicked on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,” Bradley said. “I played great up until the last five, six holes and luckily enough I had a big enough lead to coast home.”
Bradley captured his sixth PGA Tour title, a list that includes a major triumph at the 2011 PGA Championship.
McIlroy called Bradley’s performance “amazing” given the pressure of playing in a home tournament.
“I know what that pressure feels like when I go back to Ireland and play the Irish Open,” McIlroy said. “So for him to be doing what he’s doing is really impressive.”