NORTON — Keegan Bradley knew he would’ve been lying if he said his mind wasn’t on the Ryder Cup, so he didn’t.
He was as aware as anyone else that US captain Tom Watson has until Tuesday to make his selections.
He’d heard his name thrown around with Brandt Snedeker’s and Webb Simpson’s as players on the watch list.
He knew that these four days at the Deutsche Bank Championship were a last audition.
And he acknowledged just how much the thought of making the team was on his brain.
“Every second,” said Bradley, who held the early lead with a 6-under-par 65 until Ryan Palmer overtook him with a 63.
“When I’m sleeping, I’m dreaming about it. When I wake up, I’m thinking about it. When I’m on the course, I’m thinking about it.”
Coming into this tournament, he had more than enough things going on to keep his mind off all that.
He was still looking for his first win since 2012. And he was looking to win for the first time at TPC Boston, knowing he’d have the hometown gallery behind him.
Last year, he finished tied for 16th. The year before that, he was tied for 13th. The year before that, he missed the cut.
“I’ve played actually pretty well here, other than one bad round my first year,” Bradley said. “I’ve had a couple of low ones. I’m just starting to learn how to play in the home state with my family and friends around.
“I’m trying not to think about the Ryder Cup. I’m trying to think about all my friends and family that are here. I’m just trying to do the best I can to embrace it.”
So, as difficult as it was, he tried to block out all thoughts of the Ryder Cup for as long as he could, and focus on opening up with an impressive round.
With six birdies, including a flurry of four on the first seven holes, Bradley went into the clubhouse with the lead after his morning round. Even though Palmer passed him in the afternoon, Bradley came away confident about the weekend.
He took the 20-foot putt he sank on the first hole as a sign that things would break his way.
“It’s the longest putt I’ve made in a while,” Bradley said. “It’s amazing how just that one putt can open the hole up.”
The rest of the day, he was dialed in.
Off the tee, he was the most accurate in the field, hitting 13 of 14 fairways, including 7 for 7 on the front nine.
“I drove the ball really, really long and straight, every fairway pretty much,” Bradley said. “That’s really the key out here.”
He wasn’t quite as sharp getting to the greens (13 of 18 in regulation, missing just one on the back nine), but he was so zoned in, he recovered without blinking.
From the seventh to the 16th holes, he was unflappable, going on a run of nine straight pars.
“I got up and down a bunch of times, so that was nice,” Bradley said. “Those are tough holes in that stretch.”
On No. 10, when he hit into a left-side bunker, he had to hop up just to see the hole. But he got up and down with ease, hitting his bunker shot about a foot and a half from the pin.
Still, seeing at least four birdie chances slip away had him shaking at the knees a few times on the back nine.
On No. 14, he left himself a 54-foot putt after driving it 335 yards off the tee. He was so sure he drained the putt that he raised his club expecting it to roll in. Instead, it rolled off the lip of the cup and he settled for a tap-in par.
“I thought I made that putt,” Bradley said. “It was kind of embarrassing it didn’t go in.”
But he finished up with back-to-back birdies on 17 and 18.
“I’m mostly happy with the way I played,” Bradley said. “I played really solid. I hit a lot of greens and made some putts, which is a really good sign.”
Everything else, including the Ryder Cup, is out of his hands.
“I’m not going to sit up here and say any clichés that I’m not thinking about the Ryder Cup or any of that,” Bradley said. “I am very aware every second of the day that I’m being watched by the captain. And I’m just trying to embrace that and be aware of it and enjoy it, if I can.”Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.