Why British stars have much to learn from rookie victor

Mental training (and a belly putter) helped Keegan Bradley win the USPGA – Westwood and Donald take note, says James Corrigan

Is $11.5m any sort of consolation? Luke Donald suspects it might be. Indeed, when it is time for the Englishman to look back on a golfing year which may just have seen him not only crowned world No 1 but also the No 1 on both the European and US Tours this could be the ultimate "where did it all go wrong?" moment.

Not that Donald would find that question ludicrous. He began 2011 with one goal – to contend in all four majors. By his own strict standards, he failed. "It's the one disappointment of the season," said the 33-year-old as the major campaign finished with a tie for ninth in the US PGA on Sunday. "But the year is not over. There are other goals."

Donald is understandably excited about his pursuit of a money-list double. For a second, forget the mountain of greenback (a $10m [£6.1m] bonus for topping the FedEx Standings, $1.5m [£900,000] to top the Race To Dubai Order of Merit) and consider the history. "No one has ever done it," said Donald. "I know Tiger probably earned enough money through the years, but he was never a European Tour member."

The month-long FedEx play-offs start in New Jersey next week and, currently in third place, Donald is the bookmakers' favourite to go one better than last year. And the European equivalent, which finishes in Dubai in December? As Rory McIlroy, resigned in second, puts it: "Luke's already wrapped that up."

"It would be an unbelievable achievement," added Donald. Unbelievable, maybe. Career-defining, it shouldn't be. If there's one stat which illuminates the continuing shortcomings of Donald and Lee Westwood in the four events of immortal import, it is that seven majors in a row have been taken by first-time winners. And none happened to be either the world Nos 1 or 2. That's unprecedented and unfathomable.

Keegan Bradley highlights the frustration better than anyone. Here is a 25-year-old rookie, who just two years ago was competing on something called the Hooters Tour and who became just the second player in 98 years to win the very first major in which he competed. Even allowing for the enduring fickleness of golf, is there anything Donald and Westwood can learn from this personable young man from the unfashionable golf environs of Vermont, New England? For Westwood it appears so.

The 38-year-old is the best current player never to have won a major, no doubt. Indeed, in terms of tee-to-green he is the best player never to have won a major since Colin Montgomerie. But there is a fatal flaw in the putting stroke, a truth cemented by this latest brush with destiny in Atlanta. Westwood should be buoyed by his obvious imperfection not crushed by it. As soon as he finds the answer, he wins. Simple as.

And in the performance of Bradley he can take so much. First off, by comparing notes with Dr Bob Rotella, the mind guru who works with both Westwood and Bradley. Rotella calls Bradley's Aunty Pat – the winner of seven majors – "mentally the toughest player I ever worked with". Her nephew may just emerge over the forthcoming years as the second toughest. Bradley accepted the treble bogey on the 15th – which left him five behind the hapless Jason Dufner – with the philosophy raging through all of Rotella's work. "The major thing for me this week was to under-react to everything that happened to me, whether it's a good thing or a bad thing," he said. "And the key is whenever I get in that mood, my putting is above and beyond what I normally putt like."

Westwood, as Rotella says, "gets in the way of his putting". His mood at the Atlanta Athletic Club screamed as much. "The putts haven't dropped for me all year, so I don't see why they will tomorrow," he said, in the depths of Saturday's morass of missed opportunity. He knows he needs to work on that attitude, because as his manager, Chubby Chandler, recognises, "you can't keep doing the same things over and over and expect different results".

Westwood is taking the right course of action by abandoning his long-held aversion to sports psychologists. He only did so a fortnight ago and this total mindshift will take time. The next prejudice he may wish to drop as a commendable traditionalist is to the long-putter. So much for the howls from the purists, Bradley declared himself "very proud to be the first belly putter to win a major", adding: "Personally I think it's an easier way to putt. Especially when there's some nerves."

There were nerves on Sunday, but the manner in which he and his wand dealt with them identify him as something other than a one-hit wonder. Of course, the same is said when anybody wins a major, but there does seem something special about Bradley. America thinks so. But then they would, considering he was the hero who ended their record drought of six majors.

Yet Westwood and Donald have nothing to fear from Bradley. Perhaps they have something to learn, as they carry on the search for that little something to eradicate their major deficiency.

Bell tolls for Bradley

If anyone in Vermont was wondering what that din was out on the street when Keegan Bradley won the USPGA Championship on Sunday, then let the champion, himself, explain.

It's all to do with a family custom invented by his grandmother whenever her daughter, and Keegan's aunt, the seven-time major winner Pat Bradley, won a tournament.

"The story is, my aunt won her first tournament in Australia," Bradley said. "It was the middle of the night over here and my grandmother was freaking out because she wanted everyone to know. So she went outside and ran up and down the streets ringing the cowbell and waking everybody up. It became a tradition whenever she won after that."

And so the custom lives on. "My mom has started her own new tradition, a little take-off on the cowbell which actually now sits in the golfing hall of fame," he said. "Whenever I win, she runs up and down the street like a crazy woman with wind chimes."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific