Keegan Bradley shines bright at Medinah despite USA's collapse in Ryder Cup

Andy Lyons - Getty Images

St. John's golf alum Keegan Bradley keeps advancing his career. The latest installment - a breakout performance in his Ryder Cup debut.

Golfer (and St. John's graduate) Keegan Bradley hasn't been around for a long time like Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, but we already know about his mental make-up. No one wins the PGA Championship in his first major appearance and develops a reputation to fold like a cheap suit. This kid is an extremely expensive suit.

But for the golfers fortunate to participate, the Ryder Cup is something entirely different - captivating, emotional, an unrelenting pressure on each shot that makes the Cup a battle of gladiators.

The Ryder Cup is a biennial match play competition between the best of golf's talent from the United States and all of Europe, first established in 1927. The three-day event, played every other September in alternating locations between America and western Europe, is a unique test of the physical and emotional challenges of the great sport. Though fiercely competitive, the Ryder Cup is not about monetary purses, objective standings, or (in most cases) personal fame.

It takes root in the very fibers of the old game - honor, respect, and pure competition in the name of country/ region.

Bradley was automatically placed on captain Davis Love III's roster on points accumulated for his solid play in 2012, joining a who's who of American elite golfers. Phil Mickelson. Tiger Woods. Jim Furyk. Bubba Watson.

Going into the competition, the United States needed to obtain 14 and a half points (one full for a head-to-head victory, a half-point for a tied match) and the Europeans needed just 14 to retain the Cup that they had won in Wales back in 2010.

Playing under pressure to retain the Cup, with the eyes of the golfing world trained on him and his Ryder Cup teammates, Keegan found a way to play as if he were back on the Clearview Golf Course in Queens. His flawless ball-striking in front of a partisan and often boisterous Medinah, Illinois crowd made it seem like he was performing in front of, well, no one, and playing for, well, nothing. Cool as a cucumber, as they say.

In his three matches, playing alongside veteran and Ryder-weathered Mickelson, Bradley went 3-0. He provided the spark the Americans needed. After two sparkling days of clean and inspired golf, the Americans held a 10-6 lead going into Sunday's singles matches.

The collapse of the U.S.

Then, the sound of manure hitting the hay. Literally and figuratively.

We understand that this space isn't supposed to be a soliloquy on one of the most dramatic collapses in the event's 85-year history. But the stage needs to be colored, even if it is with dripping blacks and smudged dark grays.

Going into Sunday's action, the Yanks needed four and a half points to win and keep the Ryder Cup in the US. The Old World needed to rally for eight.

In Ryder Cup terms, that difference is monstrous. The probability of overcoming such a deficit is incredibly low, and announcers reminded the audience of this fact repeatedly. The only other team that pulled it off was the United States in 1999, the largest comeback in the event's history.

This 39th Ryder Cup proved that lightning, in the form of an unforseen comeback, can strike twice. The Europeans, inspired by recently-deceased former leader Seve Ballesteros, won eight matches and tied another on Sunday, defeating the dejected Americans and shocking the world.

Even the red hot Keegan Bradley couldn't find a way to match up with Rory McIlroy, who showed up to the course just ten minutes before the duo's tee time. It must have been fate. That's all I'll say.

Back in August, Three St. John's alumni - a track runner and two fencers - represented the United States at the Olympic Games in London.

But summer has turned to fall, and this past weekend, another athlete that once soaked in knowledge in the classrooms of Marillac and St. John Halls competed for American pride and honor. Keegan Bradley, a 2008 graduate of St. John's College of Professional Studies, has made his name on the PGA Tour as one of the top U.S. professional golfers in just two years.

Only thirteen months after winning his first golf major as a rookie and becoming a household name, Bradley can say he was part of an American Ryder Cup team. Not only was his name on the lineup card, he quickly become one of the squad's most trusted assets - an important step on his way to becoming St. John's own homegrown gold superstar.

Despite the the Americans' tragic loss, Bradley showed the higher-ups and golf fans across the world that he is ready to compete at the highest of stages. His endless energy and ranging talent will put him on Ryder Cup teams for many years to come.

Let's just hope he's the one popping the bubbly.

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