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
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003