2014 The WGC Accenture Match Play Championship : Sweet 16

Keegan Bradley at the 2014 WGC Accenture Match Play Championship (Photo Courtesy – KenDennisPhoto.com)

Keegan Bradley has made major strides since bursting onto the scene in a big time way on the PGA Tour in 2011. Winning his first tour title at the Byron Nelson Championship was a prelude to what followed that August when the Vermont native won in his first major appearance with a stunning triumph at the PGA Championship.

Going into the final round at the Atlanta Athletic Club just one stroke behind Jason Dufner all appeared lost when he triple-bogied the 15th hole. Instead of sliding away — the 27-year-old rallied with two consecutive birdies and with a little assistance from Dufner’s inconsistent play was able to get into a playoff which he subsequently won.

Since then Bradley has parlayed his success with selection to the 2012 USA Ryder Cup team and the 2013 President’s Cup squad.

Now 18th in the overall world rankings — Bradley has shown glimpses of separating himself from the pack of upper echelon players — his 3rd PGA Tour win came at the 2012 WGC Bridgestone Invitational — firing a stellar 6-under-par 64 in the final round to win by one.

When Bradley tees off at Augusta it will mark his 3rd start at The Masters. In the past two outings he has finished in the middle of the pack and failed to contend. Augusta National has always been vexing to newcomers but now the novelty of playing the course has evaporated.

However, Bradley is not the only talented young player. The under-30-year-old contingent inclludes the likes of Aussie Jason Day – a steady contender in majors who won earlier this year at the WGC Accenture Match-Play title. Patrick Reed — the self-proclaimed top-five-player in the world — has won three times in 8 months. You also have the emergence of other talents in their 20’s with the likes of Harris English and Jordan Spieth — both Tour winners but major-less thus far. Not to mention the talents of Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy who has two majors already.

With Tiger Woods out of this year’s event for the first time at Augusta in his professional career the event has now become a much more uncertain.

Bradley is 18th on the 2014 PGA Tour money list and has clearly shown signs he can win when his game is peaking. The issue is can Bradley’s putter — a strong 20th on the Tour’s putts per round for 2014 — handle the myriad of twists and turns of the renowned Augusta National putting surfaces.

Winning at Augusta would mark his 2nd major win and clearly move him away from promising star to bonafide superstar status. A major win at Augusta validates what Keegan demonstrated in winning the 2011 PGA Championship. There are many skillful players capable in winning one major. Earning a green jacket would move Bradley into rarified company. Major championships define a player’s career and set in stone golf history. Bradley has shown what he’s capable — can he sustain it for a week of glory in Augusta? We shall soon see.