NORTON — After he shot a 2-over-par 73 in the second round of the Deutsche Bank Championship Saturday afternoon, Keegan Bradley was resigned to the fact he was not likely to make the cut. So he retreated to the clubhouse at TPC Boston, cleared out his locker, packed his bags, and began checking for the next available flight home to Jupiter, Fla.
Bradley, who is originally from Woodstock, Vt., made birdies on his last two holes, Nos. 8 and 9, Saturday to salvage something positive from a round that included a bogey and a pair of doubles in his first five holes. But he didn’t realize their importance until he made the cut (2 over) on the number, finishing 36 holes in a 12-way tie for 67th.
“Made about a 30-footer on my second-to-last hole and made about a 12-footer on 9,’’ Bradley said. “It just goes to show you that you’ve always got to keep grinding and finish out the race because you never know what can happen.’’
On Sunday, Bradley made the most of his reprieve when he shot 63, tied for the day’s lowest score. It completed an amazing a 10-shot swing from his second round and enabled Bradley to sit tied for 19th after 54 holes.
“Yeah, I cleaned out my locker, had already looked at flights,’’ Bradley said. “So I felt like as soon as it was time to go, I felt like I was lucky to be out here.’’
Bradley credited an over-the-phone lesson the night before with his swing coach, Jim McLean, for restoring his confidence, and the return of caddie Steve Hale, who missed the first two rounds while attending his father-in-law’s funeral in California, for buoying his spirits.
“I canceled all my flights,’’ said Hale. “[Bradley] birdied 8 and 9 [Saturday], and I had to re-buy flights last minute.’’
Hale, who took the red-eye from Long Beach, arrived in Boston at 6 a.m. and made it to the course 20 minutes before Bradley’s 7:55 tee time.
“I knew that I would have [Hale] back today, which was huge for me,’’ Bradley said. “I was really looking forward to getting out there.’’
It was comforting for Bradley to see Hale, who caddied for him in his 2011 PGA Championship victory, back on the bag.
“It felt so weird out there without him,’’ Bradley said. “It felt so bizarre, and I realized how good of a caddie [Hale] is and how much I do rely on him out there. It was a good eye-opener for me in a lot of ways because when we were walking down the first hole, it just felt right, felt normal again. It didn’t feel hectic, it just felt normal.’’
Hale’s calming influence was evident when Bradley got off to a roaring start with an eagle on No. 2, a 542-yard par 5. “It was so great, because I hit two perfect shots in there,’’ Bradley said. “That’s a tough pin, but if you hit a good shot, you can hit it really close, and that’s what I did.’’
With the pin placed in the front left of an undulating green 32 yards deep, Bradley hit a 200-yard approach to within 8 feet for the eagle that jump-started his round.
It was a vast improvement from the start of his second round, when he went par, bogey, par, double bogey, par, double bogey to go 5 over through six holes.
“It just felt so good because I had been making such bad swings, and it felt good to put a couple together,’’ he said.
Bradley went on to birdie three of his next seven holes to make the turn in 5-under 31, then continued his binge with birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 and 15 and 16 to get to 9 under on the day.
When he walked to the 17th tee, Bradley was one shot off the course record (10-under 61) set by Vijay Singh in 2006 and matched by Mike Weir in 2008.
But Bradley bogeyed the par-4 17th after his drive landed in a divot and his approach landed in a greenside bunker left of the hole. When he stepped to the 18th tee at 8 under, Bradley’s only thought was bringing it home for his grandmother, whose only request of her grandson was that he shoot a 63 in the first PGA Tour event she’s ever attended.
“So I was out there thinking I had a good chance to do that for her,’’ Bradley said.
Until, that is, he seemed to stumble on the homeward hole.
With his grandmother watching from the stands surrounding the 18th green, Bradley’s 204-yard second shot hit a rock in a hazard and ricocheted out of bounds, into the woods along the right side of the fairway. He took a drop and then stuffed his fourth shot to 4 feet 7 inches to salvage par and a third-round 63.
“I needed to get up and down to make that putt to shoot 63,’’ Bradley said. “I’m just happy with the number that I shot today. I could have been lower, but also it could’ve been higher.”
After narrowly making the cut, Bradley was happy to deliver for his grandmother and the throng that followed him around the 7,216-yard layout.
“I’ve had such opportunities to come to New York and here and play well in front of fans,’’ Bradley said. “I finally got that chance today to really shoot a good round and hear the crowd going. It meant a lot to me to hear everybody do that.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.