ORLANDO, Fla. – For those who like to stir the pot with a spoon the size of a rowboat oar, the news from China on Thursday was certainly some savory fare.
Rising rookie Keegan Bradley, one of seven players with two victories this season on the PGA Tour, fired a scintillating 65 to take a two-stroke lead at the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai.
Get out the ladles, folks. This is quite a cauldron of quandary.
If Bradley plays like this for three more rounds and wins, let’s count the reasons why this development should make folks at tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach just a tad uncomfortable:
• Last week, after the tour completely and embarrassingly whiffed on its scheduling and postseason honors timing, the mailing of the ballots for the 2011 Player of the Year were pushed back two weeks after. After a conversation with a reporter, tour officials realized that the HSBC tournament counts as an official victory if a PGA Tour member wins the event. Earlier, the tour had stated ballots would be mailed out after the so-called season finale at Disney World, which was won in heroic fashion by English star Luke Donald, seemingly staking a huge claim to the Player of the Year trophy. A victory by Bradley would make him the lone player with three official wins, surely stealing votes away from Donald, the world No. 1, and again focusing the spotlight on the tour’s hugely controversial decision to delay the ballots.
• Bradley, of course, is an American. For fun, look up “jingoism” in the dictionary. Sprinkle it into your daily vocabulary between now and the weekend. You might have reason to use the term on Sunday night, especially if your are a fan of Donald and his stellar season.
• Despite two wins and a major title, Bradley isn’t on the Presidents Cup team, a decision that will become even more outrageous and indefensible if he wins in China. All Bradley did was win the PGA Championship in his first-ever appearance in a major, beating the deepest field in golf in 2011. The PGA featured 98 of the top 100 players in the world, or a whopping 12 more than the next-best global field for the year in that regard.
• A Bradley victory on Sunday would steer even more potentially unkind scrutiny toward Bill Haas and slumping Tiger Woods, the wild-card players who were added to the U.S. Presidents Cup team by captain Fred Couples. Woods has been struggling with his game for two years and has played exactly once in two months. Haas is the FedEx Cup champion, but is also the son of Couples’ assistant captain, Jay Haas. Hardly a pretty scenario for either, especially since they were added at the expense of Bradley.
• A victory by Bradley would underscore the idiocy of the Presidents Cup qualification system. The 10 automatic picks on the two teams are nailed down two months before the matches are played, during the FedEx Cup series. Moreover, according to those who have crunched the comparative numbers, Bradley would already have made the U.S. roster if the Ryder Cup points process had been used.
After his opening round, Bradley was asked about Donald's position. The Englishman had seemingly nailed down the honors and awards last month at Disney, only to have the tour yank the rug out from under his feet. Donald isn't playing this week because his wife is set to deliver the couple's second daughter at any moment.
"All I'm trying to do is win this golf tournament," Bradley said. "I know there's a lot on the line, and there's some awards to be won. I'm sure Luke is not very interested in this tournament. I'm sure he's sleeping."
Maybe, maybe not. But you can bet the folks in Ponte Vedra are tossing and turning some, because this could get downright uncomfortable.