NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa.—Keegan Bradley had bottomed out—crashing from the high of winning the PGA Championship to tumbling out of the 100 in the world.
His chances to represent U.S. teams in international play had dried up, his preferred putting method was banned, and the confidence that once put him on the cusp of greatness was shot.
“It's scary when I look back because I didn't know I needed this much improvement,” Bradley said.
He was like a scientist in the lab, changing his swing, his putting stroke, his fundamentals—investing in the work needed to get to where he was yesterday on soggy Aronimink: going head-to-head in a sudden-death playoff against the new No. 1 player in the world, Justin Rose.
For a player who had to reinvent his game, the clutch moment didn't seem so scary.
Bradley topped Rose with a par on the first playoff hole to win the rain-plagued BMW Championship for his first PGA Tour victory in six years.
Bradley's fourth career win meant a bit more than the others—yes, even the major he won in 2011—because he held more than a trophy and a $1.62-million cheque.
He also got to give his young son, Logan, a victory toss in the air on the 18th green for the first time.
Bradley, who shot a final round six-under 64 to finish at 20-under 260, thrust his arms toward the grey sky and drizzle in celebration and waved his family toward him.
“I've won before, and I win and I finish, and I go home, just me," Bradley said. ”Now, I get to go back and we get to have fun and enjoy it together.
“It's just a completely different experience.”
Rose left Aronimink with a new reality, as well. Although he was runner-up at the FedEx Cup playoff event, he didn't come up short in the world ranking.
Rose moved No. 1 in the world ahead of Dustin Johnson and became the 22nd player to reach the top spot since the ranking began in 1986.
Rose could have won in regulation but his 16-foot par putt on the final hole lipped out to force the playoff.
He fell short again in the playoff, missing a five-foot par putt that would have kept him alive.
The 38-year-old Rose had grown to love suburban Philadelphia golf courses with wins at the 2010 AT&T National at Aronimink and the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion.
He didn't get a trophy on this trip. But a No. 1 ranking will do for Rose, who joins Nick Faldo, Lee Westwood, and Luke Donald as the only Englishmen to reach the top spot.
He is the No. 2 seed behind Bryson DeChambeau among the top 30 who advance to the Tour Championship starting Sept. 20 at East Lake in Atlanta, giving him a clear shot at the $10-million prize.
“I'm delighted to be world No. 1," Rose said. "Boyhood dreams, you know what I mean?”
Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., the lone Canadian in the tourney, tied for 19th at 12-under for the event after a 67 in the final round.
But he's 36th in the FedEx Cup standings and will miss the Tour Championship.
Bradley, meanwhile, also had a number in mind: 30. He started the week at No. 52 and needed to crack the top 30 to be eligible for East Lake.
“A lot has happened to me over these six years," Bradley said. ”I kind of fell off the radar there for a little while.
“It's tough to go from being on Ryder Cup teams, being on Presidents Cup teams, to being outside the top 100 in the world.”
Bradley had to wait nearly two days before chasing down Rose. Rain soaked the course on Sunday, cancelling play and forcing the Monday finish.
It rained only lightly yesterday and players had few complaints about the condition of the course—even if the walking paths became a muddy, soggy mess for the gallery.