Keegan Bradley’s sun rises again in Japan at ZOZO Championship

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An emotional Keegan Bradley dedicated his long-awaited victory to his family, especially his wife Jillian. Photo: JGTO

A late bogey put paid to Ryo Hisatsune’s hope of securing his first top-10 finish on the PGA Tour as the 20-year-old settled for a nevertheless creditable tied-12th finish at the ZOZO Championship on Sunday.

Related: Rickie Fowler looks to end title drought in land of forefathers

Playing on a sponsor’s invitation, Hisasutne closed with an even-par 70 at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, six shots behind winner Keegan Bradley, as he shared the honour of being the top Japanese with Keita Nakajima after they signed off matching four-day total of nine-under-par 271.

 

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It marked a major improvement for Hisasutne after coming in joint 52nd in his debut last year.

Nakajima, also competing on a sponsor’s invite, joined Hisasutne in tied-12th following a 69, while Mikumu Horikawa and Satoshi Kodaira signed for a strong 65 and 67 to make it a fine week for the local contingent by tying for joint-16th.

It was an achievement of sorts for Japan as it marked the first time the tournament saw four home players finishing inside the top-16 bracket.

After mixing two birdies with a bogey in the opening 12 holes, all Hisasutne needed to keep himself in the top-10 was a par at the par-five 18th hole.

But no thanks to a poor tee shot, he reached the green in four and two-putted for a bogey six.

“Bogey on the last hole cost me not only a top-10 finish, but also a spot into next week’s PGA Tour event (CJ Cup in South Carolina),” Hisasutne lamented.

“The way I finished was disappointing but I’m looking forward to the Japan Open next week and I’m going to prepare the best I can for that.”

Despite also missing out on a top-10 finish, Nakajima still savoured his first PGA Tour outing as a professional.

“Competing in a PGA Tour event, although it’s being held in Japan, was a good experience for me,” said the former world number one amateur.

“What I do notice is that as long as I’m able to produce good scores in the third and final rounds, then I’m good enough to be in contention.

Meanwhile, Bradley survived two late bogeys scare as he fended off strong challenges from overnight leader Rickie Fowler and Andrew Putnam to end a title drought on the PGA Tour that had spanned over four years or 1,498 days to be exact.

 

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The 2011 US PGA Championship winner overturned a one-shot deficit in the final round with a 68 to edge Fowler and Putnam to the winner’s purse of US$1.92million by a solitary shot with his winning total of 15-under-par 265.

It’s Bradley’s fifth title of his PGA Tour career having last tasted success in the 2018 BMW Championship.

An emotional Bradley then dedicated his long-awaited victory to his family, especially his wife Jillian.

 

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“I never experienced emotions like that after winning a tournament. I’m a dad now and I miss my family a lot over here, and I’m so thankful for all that my wife, Jillian, has done for our family,” he said.

“To be able to, I don’t know if reward is the right word, but to be able to give this, the success of winning a tournament means something to me because I want her to know all the sacrifices she has made have been worth it for us and for me. That meant a lot.”

After building a two-shot lead with a third birdie on hole 11, Bradley would drop two bogeys on the 14th and 16th.

But a crucial birdie conversion on the 17th quickly helped him to restore a two-shot lead before sealing the deal with a par at the last.

 

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“Well, 16 was bizarre, I’ve never done that, I don’t think, ever, I shanked one out of the bunker. But I stayed really calm,” he explained.

“That two-putt on 16 was huge and that birdie on 17 is one of the best birdies of my life and one that when I think back on this tournament, that’s the pivotal hole.

 

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“I was never going to give up or let in and I knew I was still in a good spot to win the tournament.

“It feels amazing. I feel so honoured to have won this tournament and be a PGA Tour champion in Japan. It means a lot to me and I’m still, I still can’t believe it.”