At U.S. Open, Keegan Bradley is living out his Boston sports dream


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BROOKLINE, Mass. — In brisk, whipping air that felt like October, there came an October kind of sound, blaring Saturday not long after 6 p.m.

It celebrated the home team of the 122nd U.S. Open, that dude from Vermont who ran onto this course during the famed 1999 Ryder Cup at age 13 and keeps a precise memory of watching in the home basement with Dad when Adam Vinatieri’s kick whizzed through in New Orleans 21 Februarys ago.

It boomed out of the grandstand on No. 18 as if from some other, throatier sport. It came as Keegan Bradley walked up to finish his merciless round amid all the other merciless rounds, except that Bradley’s brutal round had yielded a 69 that placed him in contention at 2 under par.

Maybe the Bostonians didn’t know Bradley won the first major he entered, the 2011 PGA Championship in Atlanta, and that he has entered 35 majors since, with two more top-10 finishes. Maybe they knew but didn’t remember. Maybe some knew but didn’t remember because they might have drunk something that fuzzies up the memory bank.

It didn’t matter. It became a moment of a lifetime of a journeyman aged 36.

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“Honestly,” Bradley said, “It was one of the most amazing moments of my entire life. I got to feel what it feels like to play in Fenway, to play in the Garden, to play in Gillette Stadium. I felt like a Boston player there.”

Could he elaborate? Why, of course he could.

“As a kid, I dreamed of playing in front of Boston fans and being a Patriot or being in the Garden,” he said. “Most of the time I’m playing across the world or the country, and I’m by myself, and every now and then I’m in Hartford [at the tour stop there] and I get to feel that, or in a Ryder Cup. Out here today felt like I was in a home game, which is something that as a kid, it’s a dream.”

Their cheers did matter, as it happened. They had mattered halfway along to the ruckus on No. 18, when Bradley rang in an 11-foot putt on No. 9 for one of his five birdies that went with his four bogeys and nine pars. The crowd “went crazy for me” approaching the green, he said, “and then I made the putt, and they went wild.”

That made him feel something rare: “a jolt of energy” from an audience. “It put me on a path to, ‘All right, we no longer are trying to save this round. Let’s get ourselves into contention here,’ and I did that.”

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His front nine had ended with a dreary 36. His back nine ended with a hopeful 33. And there he was, at a 70-69-69, just three shots off the lead going into Sunday.

It has been some week, regardless. It has provided him another rarity, a hankering to scan the crowds. “Every now and then I’ll look,” he said, “and I’ll see an aunt or an uncle or a friend, and it’s really, really fun.” (His aunts in life include the World Golf Hall of Fame member Pat Bradley, an early inspiration.) He has gotten a kick out of passing a crooked tree each day on No. 18, because that’s where his dad stood during that Ryder Cup so Keegan could find him after he rushed out to join the American celebration.

Now No. 18 had given him something else altogether: one great sound and one hell of a memory.


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