AKRON, Ohio — Keegan Bradley felt as though he should have had another PGA Tour victory by now.
He might not have guessed it would happen at Firestone.
Bradley was one shot behind, a deficit that looked even larger when he walked up to the 18th green Sunday in the Bridgestone Invitational and saw only the top half of his golf ball, the rest of it buried in sand. Jim Furyk, who had led this World Golf Championship the entire way, was in a collar of rough just outside the bunker.
What followed left both of them surprised.
With a slightly downhill lie, Furyk tried to sweep the shot over the bunker and came down a little steep with his wedge. The ball barely cleared the bunker and nestled into thick grass. More groans from the gallery followed when he chopped that out about 5 feet short of the hole, and suddenly was on the ropes.
Bradley, meanwhile, blasted his bunker shot some 15 feet by the hole, the best he could do. He made the par putt, slamming his fist toward the cup in celebration. Furyk, under serious pressure for the first time all week, badly pushed his putt to the right for a double bogey.
He dropped his putter and stooped over, a mixture of shock and disgust at how he had thrown away a chance to finally win at Firestone, collect his first World Golf Championship and win for the first time in nearly two years.
“My hope standing on the 18th tee was to make birdie and maybe force a playoff,” said Bradley, whose final par gave him a 6-under 64. “Just from being out here, you just never know what’s going to happen.”
Furyk walked over to the gallery to see his 8-year-old son, Tanner, in tears. Minutes later, he agreed to a television interview and offered no excuses.
“I have no one to blame but myself,” Furyk said. “But when things go wrong, it’s an empty feeling. I’m disappointed. I walked over, my boy is crying right after the round. And I guess it reminds you as an adult — as a parent — that you have to act the proper way. You have to do and say the right things to try to give the right lessons.
“But there’s no way I should have made any worse than 5 on the last hole,” he said. “There’s no way I should have done worse than a playoff.”
Considering how this year has gone — and the players involved in this stunning twist — perhaps it should not have been a surprise. Bradley headed to Kiawah Island for the PGA Championship, where a year ago he was five shots behind with three holes to play when he made two birdies, Jason Dufner made three bogeys, and Bradley became an unlikely winner after a three-hole playoff.
Furyk was tied for the lead at the U.S. Open this summer at Olympic Club until he hooked a tee shot into the trees to make bogey on the par-5 16th and never made up ground over the final two holes.
And then there was the British Open two weeks ago. Adam Scott had a four-shot lead over Ernie Els with four holes to play at Royal Lytham & St. Annes until he finished with four straight bogeys, and the birdie Els made on his last hole proved to be the winner.
The comparisons with Scott were natural, not in the way Furyk lost the tournament, but how he felt.
“I’ve know it’s a cruel game for a long time,” he said. “I feel bad for what happened to Adam, but I think that it doesn’t affect you when it’s not you, if that makes sense. So I go back to the U.S. Open and the chance I had there, coming in tied with three holes to play, and I played poorly the last three holes. And here, I led the golf tournament the entire way and lost it on the very last hole.
“To get that close and to know that I played more than good enough to win the golf tournament, and not close the door, is disappointing. It is a cruel game. I’ve lost some tournaments in some pretty poor fashions, but I don’t think I’ve let one ever slip nearly as bad as this one.”