Golfer Keegan Bradley reacts after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before a baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics, Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
BROOKLINE, Mass — New Englander Keegan Bradley is looking forward to a big weekend in Boston sports.
And taking part in it, too.
The Vermont native — and relative of Red Sox Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk — threw out the first pitch at Fenway Park on Tuesday. Bradley will miss Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night because he’ll be playing in the U.S. Open.
“Jeez, what a time to be in Boston,” said Bradley, who attended the Ryder Cup as a child when it was played at The Country Club in 1999. “I wish I wasn’t playing in the tournament so I could have fun with all these sporting events. Really, really awesome.”
Bradley played in the U.S. Open nine straight years before missing it last year. He didn’t qualify for Brookline until he finished second at the Wells Fargo on May 8 to move into the top 60 in the rankings.
“I was pretty bummed out. But the silver lining was I was here,” he said. “I don’t take this for granted. I don’t know when the next time a major will be in Boston, so this is cool.”
The 2011 PGA Championship winner, Bradley’s best finish at the U.S. Open was a tie for fourth in 2014. He hasn’t survived the cut since 2017.
But he said he was even more nervous on the mound at Fenway Park, where his wife, Jillian’s, “Uncle Pudge” played from 1972-80.
“I kept telling many I wife, ‘Why did I agree to do this?'” he said. “This is all I need this week, you know, is the pressure. Every time I walk through the player dining, they’re all, like, ‘I’m going to the game. I’m videoing it. You better throw a good one.’
“I was actually standing behind the mound … things were getting fuzzy. That’s how uncomfortable I was,” he said. “Sometimes in my life there are moments that are shocking, and being out on that mound at Fenway Park with my family there and playing here is really surreal. Truly it is.”
John Bodenhamer, the USGA officer in charge of setting up The Country Club for the U.S. Open, made one prediction about the U.S. Open. He says something “magical” will happen on the 17th hole because something always does.
From that came a history lesson that was strictly about the U.S. Open.
He mentioned Harry Vardon making double bogey in the final round of the 1913 U.S. Open, while Francis Ouimet made birdie, and then Ouimet made birdie when he won the 18-hole playoff the next day.
In 1963, Arnold Palmer missed a 2-footer. Jack Cupit was on the verge of winning until he made double bogey on the 17th. Both wound up losing to Julius Boros in a playoff. Tony Lema migh have joined them except he made double bogey on the 17th and finished one out of the playoff.
He said Curtis Strange three-putted from 10 feet from above the hole (he had to win in 1988 in a playoff).
“And even the U.S. Amateur, Jay Sigel beat my college teammate, Rick Fehr, by making a 45-footer from the lower level up top to win his back-to-back U.S. Amateurs,” Bodenhamer said. “Something is going to happen on 17 this week.”
History is one of the greatest assets in golf, and it goes beyond the USGA.
The most famous shot on the 17th hole at Brookline was Justin Leonard making the 45-foot birdie — “The shot heard ’round the world,” is how it’s remembered in golf.
That putt was never mentioned.
The USGA is the latest organization to bump up its prize money for the majors.
CEO Mike Whan said the purse would be $17.5 million, with $3.15 million going to the winner. That’s a $5 million increase from 2021, when Jon Rahm won at Torrey Pines and earned $2.25 million.
And it falls in line with other increases this year. The PGA Tour has been raising the stakes under its new media contract, with The Players Championship remaining the richest event on tour at $20 million. The hope was that it would inspire the majors to follow along.
The Masters went from $11.5 million to $15 million. The PGA Championship went from $12 million to $15 million.
Next up is the British Open, which last year had a total purse of $11.5 million.
VIEW THROUGH A LENS
Jim Furyk is one of three players at the U.S. Open who last competed at The Country Club during the 1999 Ryder Cup, a stunning American rally that ended in victory when Justin Leonard holed a 45-foot putt on the 17th green.
The Americans were criticized for storming the green to celebrate with Leonard, even though Jose Maria Olazabal still had a 25-foot birdie chance to halve the hole.
Furyk couldn’t be accused of that. He wasn’t there.
“I missed the Leonard putt,” he said. “I was a couple of holes back.”
It was one of the more important wins for the Americans that day. Furyk faced Sergio Garcia, the spark for Europe who was unbeaten. Furyk took him down, 4 and 3.
And he did see the winning putt, but only after hearing a massive roar.
Furyk said he found a cameraman and was able to see the putt on a monitor.
“He ran footage of it. I had heard the big cheers from 300 yards,” Furyk said. “And then I ran over to the 18th fairway.”
DIVOTS: Jordan Spieth was feeling ill on Wednesday and cut off his practice session early. He is expected to be able to play in the opening round on Thursday, when he would tee off at 7:29 a.m. … Patton Kizzire is the first alternate. He is followed Rickie Fowler. … If the cut has an odd number of players, the non-competing marker will be Matt Parziale, a Brockton resident who was the low amateur in the 2018 tournament. He also played in the event in 2019, but missed the cut. Last year’s non-competing marker was Jason Gore, the USGA’s head of player relations, who played in the final group of the 2005 U.S. Open.
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