In high-level professional golf, players, really good players, rarely, if at all, do something to gift a victory to another player.
Yet that was the scenario on the first playoff hole early Monday afternoon in the chilly, damp rain at stately Aronimink.
A bunch of guys had a chance to prevail at the BMW Championship.
Xander Schauffele had a putt to go 20-under on the 72nd hole. Billy Horschel was a shot from the playoff thanks to a drive that found the deep, gnarly, wet rough at 15 that resulted in bogey. Rory McIlroy should have run away with this one. He lost by two but to be frank, it was easy to miss count of how many putts he missed inside eight feet on this day that was perfectly fit for ducks only.
Then there was Tiger Woods. Two back nine bogeys left him wondering once again about what might have been. He was there in the thick of it.
Same for Webb Simpson.
Then there was Justin Rose and yes, Keegan Bradley.
Bradley made birdie at 14, another at the gettable par five 16th then hit one heckuva tee shot at the par three 17th within nine feet and made that to go 21 under and he seemingly had control of the tournament. Then at 18, Keegan did his best to throw it away. He hit a big hook off the tee, was lucky it landed in the matted-down grass. He had a good look at the green. Then he blew his second way right, hitting the stands. Yikes, was this kid nervous! Then his chip left him a good seven feet short for par and it was easy to see what was coming. Miss — low left on the amateur side — where all nervous putts go.
Keegan posted 20 under and probably felt he blew his chance to win.
Back behind him was overnight leader Rose in the final threesome. Like Bradley, he birdied 16 to get to 20-under but was still a shot short with two to play. He did something about that at 17 where he hit a vintage Justin Rose long iron, right past the hole — it stopped inside 13 feet. He saw the nearby scoreboard and promptly poured in the birdie putt. That’s what guys who make it to No. 1 do. He took the lead with the long, difficult 18th ahead, 463 yards, playing uphill, into a pretty good wind — playing more like 500 yards.
Of course Rose found the fairway but he had 210 to the hole and that’s where he made his first big mistake. He hit four-iron, should have taken three. His shot went only 170 of the 210 and left him nearly 40 yards short of the hole. No worries, guys who make it to No. 1 can make par from that spot, 10 out of 11 times. Unfortunately for Rose, he came up 15 feet short, then hit a perfect putt that lipped out.
Hey Keegan! Load up, you’re going back to 18!
Bradley got his first gift from Rose, a bogey at 18.
It really looked like there would be a second playoff hole. Both players were on the fringe in two, Bradley about 16 feet, Rose about 18. Bradley grabbed putter, hit it inside two feet, marked and watched Rose leave his four feet short. No worries, right? Head back to 18 tee again?
Wrong, Rose didn’t even hit the hole. There you go Keegan, the English are great at gift-wrapping and this one was all neat and tidy — comeback complete.
To which we pose the question:
When was the last time a reigning No. 1 player in the world missed a four-footer in a playoff to hand a victory to a guy who desperately needed one?
Tiger Woods never did.
Which shows how vulnerable the cast of No. 1 players have been since the Woods domination.
“Just incredible, I’m speechless, I don’t know what to say ,” was Bradley’s immediate reaction to the gift that ended a six-year winless drought and a lot of on-course suffering.
“It’s a hard road back, but it feels good,” said the man who climbed to sixth in the FedEx standings heading for East Lake in a couple of weeks.
As for Rose?
“That’s something I’m extraordinarily proud of,” he said of that No. 1 ranking.
As for that missed four-footer, he was 48-for-48 inside of five feet until then.
And missing four footers in playoffs isn’t something No. 1 players do.
How long Rose will stay there is anyone’s guess.
No doubt the U.S. Ryder Cuppers saw that missed clutch putt.
Store that in the memory banks for France fellas.