Keegan Bradley believes he was at a “huge disadvantage” at Augusta National Golf Club in 2012 because he was a Masters Tournament rookie.
“I learned you’ve got to really know that course,” Bradley said. “You’ve got to get a bunch of holes in and play it as much as you can.”
Still, the 2011 PGA Championship winner tied for 27th place while using what he calls the “learn-as-you-go” approach.
“It’s such a tough golf course,” said Bradley, who shot 71-77-73-69–290. “It was my first Masters. I learned a lot. Hopefully, I’ll apply it this year.”
It doesn’t hurt his chances to have three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson giving him tips, not to mention Ernie Els, a two-time runner-up at Augusta National.
In the weeks leading up to the 2012 Masters, Bradley made a road trip to Augusta National with Mickelson, a mentor and one of his regular practice-round playing partners on the PGA Tour.
“Being out there (at Augusta National) with Phil is an inspiration and makes me want to win this tournament, just by the way he carries himself around there,” Bradley said. “You can just tell once he comes in there, he’s a champion and he deserves to be treated like one. And it’s just an inspiration for me to hopefully get to that level.”
This year, in mid-February, Els had a tip for Bradley about Augusta National.
“He was just telling me it’s a big myth at Augusta that you have to hit these big hooks around the corner,” Bradley said. “He told me, ‘The straight ball is still fine.’ That’s kind of what I hit, so it made me feel better. It’s good insight from a guy who has played really, really well there.”
Bradley has good memories of his last round at the Masters – his 69 was his low round of the week by two shots and helped him crack the top 30.
“You need rounds on that course with those pins on Sunday because hopefully someday you’ll be coming down the stretch with a chance to win,” he said.
Bradley, 26, has already proved he’s a big-time player. Of his three victories, one was a major (the PGA Championship) and another was a World Golf Championship event (the 2012 Bridgestone).
In his last major championship of 2012 – the PGA Championship – he tied for third.
“I think major courses suit me a little better,” he said. “I prefer a (winning) score that is single digits under par. The harder the golf course, the better. I just think these golf courses are built for me a little better. The Masters is one of those.”
Bradley admits to being star-struck when he first saw Augusta National.
“It was just everything that I thought it was and a lot more,” he said. “I’ve never been to a place that’s exceeded the expectations by so much.
“When you walk up the 11th fairway and you see 12 and 13, it’s shocking, the first time. And I just think that everything that people say about it is true. It’s got a magical feel to it almost, and that’s the part of it that I think you need to put aside when you’re playing the tournament.”