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September 19, 2018

Keegan Bradley

Atlanta, Georgia

EMILY TILLO: I'd like to welcome the BMW Championship winner Keegan Bradley into the interview room. Welcome back to the TOUR Championship and to East Lake. First time here since 2013. After you reflected on the events of the past two weeks, talk about what it means to be here.

KEEGAN BRADLEY: Yeah, this was a goal of mine for the last two years to get to this tournament. I was playing for two things on Sunday, and I kind of took coming to this tournament for granted for a couple years. And this means everything to the players because it gets you in the majors, it gets you in the WGCs, and for yourself, it means a lot, too, because this means these are the best players in the world. These are the guys who have played the best all year, and it means everything to me to be in this tournament with all these guys and to be back where I feel like I belong in the golf world, and I've got a lot to play for again this week.

EMILY TILLO: And you're entering the tournament No. 6 in the standings after making that huge jump, so just talk about your impressions of East Lake since it's been a few years since you've been here.

KEEGAN BRADLEY: Yeah, East Lake is consistently one of the best-conditioned golf courses we play on. It's difficult. It's a great course to play for the FedExCup. You've got to go out there and play really well. I love coming to this tournament for a lot of reasons. It means you've had a great year, but it also means you've got a chance to win the FedExCup, which, obviously, a lot comes with that. It's just an exciting time of year. Every FedExCup event you play in, you're playing for so much. This is the big one, so we're excited to be here.

Q. I think I saw you still hanging out in Philly on Tuesday morning; once you got away from it all and everything settled in, what were the emotions really like?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: Well, it was so -- the winning experience was so different because my family was there. In years past, I've been by myself or I've flown home, and so we took a while to leave Aronimink, and we got back to the hotel, and the replay was on. So we actually watched the last five holes of the replay sitting in our hotel room, and every now and then I'd look over at my wife, Jill, like what's going on? It just seemed surreal. It always does. We just didn't want to rush off. We wanted to enjoy it.

And that was what was so different about this win was it was so gratifying in a lot of ways, but to have my family there, it's a win for them, as well. They've been through it all. Jill has been through all of the ups and downs. We just -- we relished every second of it, and it's probably -- today is when I've got to start -- we've been celebrating for two weeks. So today is the day where, okay, we've got to get back down to business and focus on playing well in this tournament.

Q. When you say celebrating for two weeks, how? What have you been up to?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: Well, you celebrate with my family, then you go home, all of my friends want to come celebrate the win. And then you see your coaches and they want to celebrate. It's fun to go to Bear's Club or Medalist, my home courses, and the staff and the members, they're excited. It was just so fun to have that week off because so often you win, and then a month goes by it seems like, and you haven't had a chance to really sit down and reflect and have fun.

It was just a great, great week of celebrating with my friends and family and being home and realizing, okay, I was sitting with my wife and going, oh, we're going to Maui. You've never been to Maui. Then my son is going to get to do the par-3 with the suit on. So things just start hitting you. It's the best.

Q. I know stats don't tell the whole story and can be deceptive, but if you look at yours, it almost looks like you're bucking the trend of guys trying to hit it as far as possible, no regard for accuracy almost. You've gotten a little bit shorter relative to the field, but very accurate. Was that a conscious decision or are the stats lying?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: I don't care necessarily about my driving distance. I feel like I hit it plenty far enough. I'm not one of the longest players by any means, but I'm not -- I'm above average for sure. But I take pride in hitting fairways. For me, that's my whole game, hitting fairways and greens. I know at a course like this, if I'm hitting fairways, I'm going to be tough this week, just because of you hit the fairways, you've got a lot of mid irons in, and statistically that's where I'm strongest.

For me, I've always been big on hitting the fairways because that's just not my game. The smash and gouge is not my game. That works for a lot of guys, but if I'm missing fairways, I'm not going to be up on the leaderboard. I just feel my swing, and technically I'm at a level now where I'm very accurate off the tee and with my irons. When the putting matches up like it did at BMW, I can contend.

Q. Next year if you were sixth, you'd be a couple shots back. Does the leaderboard on Thursday, does that change your mindset because so much can be made up?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: Well, I don't think anyone knows. I've never done it. I've never heard of anybody doing it. I think it would give me in my position right now a better chance of winning because of how good those other guys are -- honestly, I have no idea. I think it's a really cool idea, and we'll see, and it simplifies things not only for the players but for the fans at home. Whoever wins on Sunday is going to win the FedExCup and all that money and all the stuff that comes with it. I think we're going to have to wait and see. I think it's exciting the TOUR is looking outside the box. But we'll see.

Q. From a pride standpoint, if you go back to Dallas in '11, you've been part of the in crowd, if you will, from the get-go, and then the PGA that follows, et cetera. What was it like not being part of that elite group, TOUR Championship, et cetera, majors, and is it more gratifying to be back in there?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: It was really difficult this year being outside that group, and the end of last year, because when I hear there was a Ryder Cup dinner, a Ryder Cup meeting and I wasn't even invited -- I mean, a lot of people get invited that aren't going to make the team, and that kind of was an eye-opening moment knowing I'm way further away than I -- in other people's eyes, especially the captain's, than I think I am. It hurts your ego, and you're not in the in crowd. You go weeks, months without playing in a tournament like this or a major, WGC. My goal was to get here to get back there. But now after winning, I'm in a better position now to really do some damage.

But that was difficult to see guys that either I was beating or playing with or playing teams with continue to play great, and I was just kind of treading water. That's a big -- I was up on a stage today for the TOUR with sponsor value with Tiger, Phil, D.J., Brooks, and it felt good to be in that crowd again.

Q. Atlanta will always be a special place for you, especially for golfing memories and stuff. When you reflect on your win at the PGA Championship in 2011, your win in 2012, as well, but then the journey along the way, the intervening years, to get to this point in 2018, how would you describe that journey on a personal story?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: A lot of hard work, really. It was years of work with my coaches, with Darren May, and I really had to put the work in. I always have -- I've always been good at putting the work in, but this was a little different. I had to be way more focused. I had to be way more driven as to what I was going to do. I couldn't waste any time. That's what's so satisfying about where I am now, because it didn't just happen overnight. It took a lot of hours on the range, practicing, playing tournaments I don't normally play, playing 30 tournaments a year. And now I put the work -- sometimes you don't see it play out like this. So to put the work in and have it come true means the most to me.

Q. Do self-doubts ever come in, and if so, how does any elite golfer overcome those?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: Yeah, I didn't know if I was going to win again. I didn't know if I was going to play the Masters again, play in this tournament. There were times where I would think it may not happen, but I always believed that I would get back to this point. I just believe in hard work, and if you put the work in, it's going to pay off at some point. I don't know which way, but I know if you do the right things, it's going to pay off.

Q. I wanted to ask you what Phil brings to a team, and I almost say it out of the context that he had a long history there for a while of playing with newcomers, whether it was yourself or Toms or Anthony Kim. What was he like as a partner and in the team room, and as you look from your position now, why is it a no-brainer that he's on teams like this?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: I think Phil is the unofficial player-captain of the team. He's the guy -- he'd be like the -- you have the coach of the basketball team and then you have the captain. He's our captain on the course. He's got a way of -- just his whole demeanor in the locker room is funny, and he loosens people up. For rookies in the Ryder Cup -- I was talking to my coach today about the guys that are playing the Ryder Cup next week. In the back of their mind every second this week, it's there. They're thinking about it. And for me as a rookie, knowing that I have Phil Mickelson on my side, as my partner, it's such a relief because he's going to go out there, he's going to be Phil. He's going to be the same person he is out playing a match today on Tuesday that he is on that first tee at the Ryder Cup.

It's just awesome to have him there and see his confidence, and he pumps you up. And all I have to do is say one little thing to him and he's back up. I think it's important to have a guy like him on the team because he's so good with everybody, and especially the younger guys.

Q. What's the same and what's different in your game now versus 2011 to 2013, and were you trying to get back to that guy, or was there a new recipe of success you were trying to attain?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: I tried my hardest not to get back to anything. I'm a different player. For a while I was trying to get back to where -- this player. And once I started to get away from that, that's what really helped. I'm a much better ball striker now than I was. Mentally, I'm much stronger. I was much more raw back then. I feel like my career kind of went in reverse. I started here, and now I had to learn my way back up to winning. I wouldn't say I'm a better player or worse player now, but I'm different, and I feel as though now with my putting coming around, I can do a little more damage more consistently than I did.

Q. Boring East Lake question: No. 14 last year played as the toughest hole on the course, 21st hardest on TOUR. Old No. 5, it's a 520-yard par-4. Can you talk about how you play it and what your plan is going into it?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: Well, 14 and 15 are about as hard a holes as you can ever play. 14 is a long par-4. It's a blind tee shot, and the fairway is super narrow, and if you miss the fairway, you can't really get to the green. I think if you went into the mindset as a par-5, everyone would be like, oh, it's one of the easiest holes out there. So I try to imagine it like that. If I give myself a look at 3 or 4 every time, I bet you play that hole 1-over you're gaining shots on the field.

Q. Exciting putting question for you: Were you ever terribly close with Webb, and did you have any kind of a bond post-anchoring rule?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: Webb was my inspiration -- he showed me that I could putt well again. What he did, he showed me that it was possible to do this, and we talked a lot over the last four to five years or however long it's been since they banned it. Webb to me, he's my idol. I always tell him, everything he does is perfect. I love the guy. And what I saw him do at THE PLAYERS was inspiring for me because not only did he win the tournament and putt well, but he's putting better than he did with the belly. That kind of showed me, okay, I've got to stick with this style of putting, and we talked a lot over the years how upset we were, how excited we were to win again, how excited we were to show the golf world, the USGA, that we could do this. Any time you can see a peer overcome that is -- was a big help, and he -- I reached out to him because he seemed to figure it out. I took a little bit of what he was doing and some other guys and mashed them together, and that was the difference. He really showed me that we could do it.

Q. Does that mean you guys plan on having five kids?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: No, but he is my idol for sure.

Q. Along the lines he said he's thankful the ban came in because he would have been in that 30 to 60 range forever, where now he's a better putter. What are your aspirations with the putting? Can you become a better putter than you ever were?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: I think so. Over the years when the ban happened, I didn't focus enough of my time on this. I thought it was going to be easier. I never was technical with my putting. I never had swing thoughts with putting. I just putted. And over the last year for the first time, I've really dissected and gotten technical with my putting to where I do drills. I have things that I use before the tournament, and I actually am mindful of my stroke, which I never was. If I could go back and do it again, I would take that approach first.

But I think, again, with hard work, I've got to gain all those hours back that I lost with the belly, and I'm starting to do that. I think I can -- whether I'm a better putter or not, I don't know. I may not need to be with where my ball-striking is, and again, if it pops for a week, technically I should be up there again.

Q. BMW, you said that your ball-striking got to a point where you kind of had to address that, and once that got settled you addressed the putting. Did the putter change affect the ball-striking, or did it just go south just because golf is hard?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: Well, it exposes it for sure because days where you don't -- if I can't make a five-footer for par or 10-footer for par birdie, it doesn't matter how close you hit it. And then if I had an off ball-striking day, I'd shoot 73, 74. And then I started to have good days of putting. I didn't have good weeks. And then now I've -- over the last two months, I've been putting good weeks together of putting. Actually in Canada, I finished third or fourth, and my ball-striking was awful, and I putted well that week, and that was the first time I had done that, where I was like, my putting kind of saved the week.

I hit a similar arc with the belly putter. I never was a great belly putter until I got on the PGA TOUR, and it took off, and I feel like that could be kind of what's happening now that I've put the time in.

Q. Did the putting change change how you played the game? Does that make sense, course management?
KEEGAN BRADLEY: It definitely put more pressure on every aspect of my game. Like I said, if I had an off day of ball-striking or driving the ball, it was hard for me to save a round, shoot 1- or 2-under instead of 1- or 2-over, and then that can seep in. The more pressure you put on yourself, obviously the harder it is to play.

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