Keegan Bradley built a big enough lead in front of adoring New England fans that he broke the tournament record at the Travelers Championship despite a shaky closing stretch, closing with a 2-under 68 for a three-shot victory on Sunday.
Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry both closed with rounds of 64 as McIlroy shot into the top-7 on eighteen-under-par while Lowry was four shots further back in T19.
With fans chanting his name, the 37-year-old walked up to his ball on the 18th green, sank a 2-foot par putt and threw his arms into the air and let out a yell. He finished three shots ahead of Zac Blair, who shot 62, and Brian Harman, who closed with a 64.
“This is for all the kids who grew up in New England and had to endure the winters and watch other people play golf,” said Bradley, who was born in Vermont and also lived in Massachusetts. “I am just so proud to win this tournament.”
Bradley had only made one bogey for the week before dropping three shots in his final six holes as the nerves seemed to get to him at the PGA TOUR event he said he most wanted to win. This was his sixth TOUR victory and second this season; he won the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP in Japan in October.
Bradley birdied the par-4 12th hole to move for 5 under for the day and take a six-shot lead. But he sliced his tee shot into the water on the next hole, leading to bogey. He also bogeyed the 14th and 16th holes.
He settled down with a par on the 17th to all but guarantee himself a triumphant walk up the last hole.
“I played great until the last like five or six holes and luckily I had a big enough lead to coast home,” Bradley said.
He became the first New Englander to win the title since Connecticut’s J.J. Henry in 2006.
Blair had his best finish on TOUR. The 32-year-old from Utah has been playing on a major medical exemption after missing almost two full years with a torn labrum.
“Basically, I went from playing 18 or 36 holes every day for the last seven, eight years to not touching a club for five, six, seven months,” he said. “It was cool, though. Got to hang out with my family and build a golf course and do a lot of other fun stuff. But, it’s obviously cooler to shoot 62 on Sunday.”
Blair had back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 4 and 5, then went on a tear with six birdies and an eagle on the par-5 13th, where he hit his approach from 253 yards inside 5 feet.
Harman shot his second straight 64.
Patrick Cantlay, who shot 61 on Saturday to get within five strokes of the leaders, made a run at Bradley with three straight birdies from Nos. 13-15. But he overshot the 16th green, leading to bogey, and lipped out his birdie try on the 17th. He shot 67 to finish four shots back alongside Scottie Scheffler (65) and 2019 champion Chez Reavie (71), who began the day one shot behind Bradley but did not make a birdie until the 14th hole.
Rory McIlroy shot 64 and finished at 18 under after making an early charge. He birdied five of his first seven holes in front of galleries that were four or five fans deep.
But he gave a shot back on the ninth after his 352-yard drive settled next to a boundary fence in deep rough. He then missed an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 12.
The TPC River Highlands gave up eight rounds of 62 or better this week.