BRING THE THUNDER
No disrespect to the 2011 PGA Champion, but the thunderous tee balls and towering irons are a surprise when you consider Keegan Bradley's gangly frame. He's a reminder that the mind is mightier than the muscle. By swinging the club with the same abandon that he laced ski turns as a boy racer in icy Vermont, Keegan has found grace on the edge. "He has that certain recklessness necessary for a great swing," says his coach, Jim McLean. "He's totally fearless, and it's a joy to watch." Though Bradley frequents the gym, he's more in tune with what sits on his shoulders. One of his most enduring swing thoughts came from a hypnosis session with his golf team at St. John's University. "I focus on my facial muscles. When you can get your mouth to relax, your whole body relaxes," Bradley says. And then he swings as hard as he can.
Keegan's skiing background definitely helped him progress faster, says Jim McLean, who started working with Bradley in 2009, a season when he played more Hooters Tour events than Nationwide.
"He has this innate sense of how to be alive on his feet," McLean says. "Even when we were incorporating new changes, he never stopped swinging like he was popping out of a starting gate."
As if most mini-tour players aren't already maddened by the notion that a few small adjustments is all that separates them from major stardom, the changes McLean suggested to Keegan weren't drastic. "The main thing was getting his hips to line up underneath his shoulders at the top, or what's called stacking the right side," McLean says. "Keegan's upper body had a tendency to lean away from the target too much as he drew the club back."
Curbing this sway would help with consistency, but McLean didn't want to tamper with his student's aggressive athleticism. "Keegan's head shifts three or four inches to the right in his backswing, but that's OK. If you're really going to hit the ball far, it's a mistake to try to keep your head in one place," McLean says. "What matters is that the body stays coiled.
"Keegan's transition from backswing to downswing is absolutely perfect, the way his legs go forward as the club is still going back. Amateurs usually start the downswing with everything together, or their upper body going first."
In the unrestrained transition, the discerning eye can see the boy racing gates, skiing edge to edge.
-- Max Adler