Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
When Keegan Bradley (Srixon) was in a position to win the Sony Open in the fourth round, I was cautiously optimistic because I had picked him to win the tournament in the 2024 PG Golf Pool.
I was the only one in the pool to select him. I liked the way he turned around his career last year having lost his game in the last few years when the belly putter was outlawed. He finished tied for 45TH in The Sentry, his first tournament of 2024. He was 75-1 in the pre-tournament odds for the Sony, which was not nearly as deep as The Sentry and I expected him to be sharper the next week after shaking off the rust.
Through the first three rounds of the Sony Open, he was sticking all of his wedge shots, giving him excellent looks for birdie, and for the most part he made use of those opportunities.
He did so with his quirky AimPoint green-reading technique, in which he walks back from the hole, stopping every few steps and measuring the line to the hole with two fingers side by side. The AimPoint is starting to gain traction. Justin Rose (Titleist) is one of the adopters.
Bradley was tied for the lead after three rounds with Grayson Murray (Titleist). But I’ve seen it happen too many times on the PGA Tour where a player is leading or tied for the lead and somehow comes undone, for whatever reason.
Unfortunately for Keegan and I, it happened on the final hole. His second shot landed behind a hospitality tent and he was given relief. As an aside, why are players given relief when they make a lousy shot that is way out of bounds? Anyway, he hit his third shot far too short and needed to sink an 18-foot putt for birdie. He had the length but just missed it. He ended up tied for second with Byeong-hun An (Titleist), who missed a four-foot birdie putt to have a chance to tie for the lead and go into a playoff with Murray. In the end, Murray won with a 40-foot birdie, the second week in a row the winner was a player who had overcome a battle with alcoholism. Chris Kirk (Titleist) won the week before in The Sentry.
Fantastic stories of redemption, which are always great from a human point of view, but woulda, coulda, shoulda became nada for me.
WELCOME BACK PELLLEY: When I read Allan Shipnuck’s book LIV and Let Die: The Inside Story of the War Between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, I was intrigued by the number of times Keith Pelley was referenced.
Pelley is the current CEO of the DP World Tour but has announced he is stepping down to come home to Canada to become the President and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment in April.
MLSE has various sports properties under its banner, including the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League. The Leafs’ brand is like the New York Yankees, Manchester United, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Cowboys in terms of financial value and marquee recognition in their respective sports.
Pelley’s background is in TV sports production – he has headed various sports networks in Canada – and in 2004 he left to become President of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League in 2004. I was working for the Toronto Sun covering the Argonauts when Pelley made his surprising career shift. I knew him a little bit from his TV work, but really got to know him in his role with the Argos. I found him to be an individual with a ton of enthusiasm and extremely media savvy, which was not particularly surprising because of his background. He allowed me an exclusive interview running back Ricky Williams before he signed with the Argos in 2006 while suspended from the National Football League for drug use.
I was like a dog on a bone on the Williams’ story, which was huge news at the time because he was one of the most interesting, perhaps even conflicted, players in pro football. He was a Heisman Trophy winner with the University of Texas, famous for his athleticism and dreadlocks. Mike Ditka, at the time coaching the New Orleans Saints, gave up all of his teams’ picks in the 1999 NFL Draft and two of its first three picks in the 2000 Draft to the Washington Redskins to move up to ensure he’d have a chance to pick Williams. He did so, fifth overall. It never really worked out for Williams in New Orleans in his rookie year and Ditka was fired. Williams was eventually traded to Miami, where his use of marijuana led to multiple suspensions.
So coming to the Argos was a big deal, and the chance to interview him was huge.
Of all the athletes and sports personalities I’ve interviewed in 40 years, he stands out as the most intriguing because of how he viewed life. Football wasn’t nearly as important to him as it was to the vast majority of the players who were in the NFL. He was more into yoga, marijuana and understanding life, and he shaved off his dreadlocks when he came to Toronto because it wasn’t nearly as important to him as people believed.
But the fact Pelley liked the way I worked began what I considered a good relationship with him.
Pelley eventually left the Argos to return to broadcasting and became an even bigger presence than before.
In 2015, he left Rogers Media to become Commissioner and CEO of the European Tour, which was later rebranded the DP World Tour. He loves golf, so I wasn’t surprised he pursued this challenge. In his time with the Tour, he has implemented several innovative features to make the game more appealing and quicker to its audience. He’s a big-picture thinker.
When it was announced last week he was leaving the Tour to come home, again I was not surprised. He’s a person who likes challenges and opportunities, and becoming head of the MLSE is a coveted job, particularly for someone who is Canadian. Quite simply it may be a once-in-a-lifetime job he simply couldn’t turn down. But you can also speculate with the state of pro golf and the battle between the PGA and LIV, it might have been the right time to leave before things getting even more messy than they are now. Pelley was critical of the PGA Tour and its players for its lack of a global strategy before the Dubai event. He thinks there is a chance for unification, but whenever, if ever, that happens he will be long gone.
I wish him well in his new job.