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Dublin: 8°C Monday 12 April 2021
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In the swing: Bradley's spit takes the shine off California dream

The finale of the Northern Trust Open will be one of 2012′s stand-out moments, but what’s up with Keegan Bradley and all the spitting? Neil Cullen takes a look.

Keegan Bradley reacts after missing his birdie putt on the second playoff hole during the final round of the Northern Trust Open.
Keegan Bradley reacts after missing his birdie putt on the second playoff hole during the final round of the Northern Trust Open.
Image: Chris Carlson/AP/Press Association Images

LAST YEAR’S FedEx Cup Champion Bill Haas made his first significant impact on the Tour this season with a dramatic playoff win over Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson.

The finale on the 18th green where Bradley and Mickelson holed stunning birdie putts will be a stand-out moment this season. It will be hard to beat it.

Same goes for Bill Haas’s winning putt. The American commentators described the green on the second playoff hole as “like an igloo”. Its difficulty was exemplified by the second shots of Bradley and Mickelson who couldn’t keep the ball on the green, although both were out of position with their tee shots.

These outstanding moments may not be the first thing that enter people’s mind, however, when they think back to the final round of the 2012 Northern Trust Open. The issue that has dominated much of the commentary in the aftermath of the tournament is Keegan Bradley’s pre-shot routine, particularly his spitting.

Here is just a flavour of the reaction on Twitter on Sunday night from golf journalist Iain Carter of the BBC, Denis Pugh who is coach to a host of Tour professionals and does analysis for Sky Sports, and a third from Joey Barton of all people.

For anyone who happened to miss it, Keegan Bradley was seen to be spitting on the ground on a regular basis as he went through his pre-shot routine. It didn’t make for pleasant viewing.

We see spitting all the time in sport, whether it be in soccer or Gaelic games or rugby, amongst many others, but the like of what happened on Sunday has never been seen on a golf course before. Golf is a game that doesn’t lend itself to spitting in the same way as other sports do. It just doesn’t require the same level of physical exertion which leads to a need to spit, if such a need even exists at all.

Tiger Woods was involved in a spitting saga around this time last year when he spat on a green in the Dubai Desert Classic. Obviously when Woods does something controversial a media frenzy ensues, but what Tiger did that day almost fades into insignificance in comparison to Bradley’s behaviour.

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Thankfully, Keegan Bradley has since apologised to his fans on Twitter and he is to be commended for that.

It would seem as though the PGA Tour will have to consider this issue, but it’s questionable as to what they can impose on a player who spits. As Denis Pugh pointed out in his tweet above, slow play is now widespread with rounds regularly taking over five hours. The PGA Tour under Tim Finchem, however, is yet to hand out any fine or penalty for slow play, so it seems as though they are reluctant to take any action on such disciplinary matters.

Head-to-head

Slow play will probably be less of an issue next week at the WGC Accenture Matchplay where the top 64 players in the world will go head to head in the knockout format starting on Wednesday.

The WGC events have become almost like a second tier of tournaments behind the Majors and we’re set for two in the space of three weeks. Luke Donald defends this week, having had a relatively uninspiring start to the season. Matchplay is a completely different animal to strokeplay, though, so expect to see the emergence of some names that maybe haven’t appeared on leaderboards yet this year.

Ian Poulter, for example, is a man we haven’t really heard from this year but who is known as being one of the best players out there in the matchplay format.

Even in the first round, the draw has served up some tasty head-to-heads. Donald opens up against Ernie Els. Graeme McDowell will take on Y.E. Yang, two men who have won Majors in recent years. Rory McIlroy will do battle with George Coetzee while Darren Clarke will have a tricky encounter against Nick Watney.

This is a week that may well suit Rory McIlroy. In 2009, he was narrowly beaten in the quarter-final by eventual champion Geoff Ogilvy while last year he suffered a shock exit to Ben Crane losing 8&7.

But matchplay would seem to suit a guy like McIlroy. He makes lots of birdies and the mistakes which can sometimes cost him in strokeplay are not always as significant in matchplay as even a double or triple bogey only results in the loss of one hole.

Matchplay is one of those formats where even if you play poorly, you still win if your opponent happens to play worse on the day, but the quality of the field this week suggests we’re in for some quality golf and some great matches.

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