By Stephen Wade, AP Sports Writer
INZAI CITY, Japan (AP) — It was worth the trip to Japan for Keegan Bradley, who won the Zozo Championship on Sunday with a final-round 2-under 68 to finish one shot ahead Rickie Fowler and Andrew Putnam for his first PGA Tour win in just over four years.
Bradley raised both arms to the sky and was tearing up after clinching the victory with a tap-in on the 18th. Thirty minutes later, he was still choking back tears.
“I’ve been crying since I finished,” Bradley said. “I can’t remember the last time I cried.”
He said he talked to his wife Jillian and his mother Kaye in the United States on FaceTime after securing the long-sought victory.
“I couldn’t keep things together. I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” he said.
Bradley finished with a 15 under total of 265 at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club on the outskirts of Tokyo, which hosts the only PGA Tour event in Japan.
He bogeyed two of the last five holes, but dropped a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th to give him a two-shot lead going into the 18th ahead of playing partners Fowler and Putnam.
“I realized if I made this putt I’d have a two-shot lead,” he said. ”And I just buried it. The perfect putt. It was meant to be and I’m proud of the way I handled that hole.
The birdie followed a bogey at 16 where he shanked a shot from the greenside bunker, but still got down with two putts to share the lead with Putnam. Fowler was one shot back.
“It’s not going to be easy, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Bradley said. “Things aren’t easy for me normally … I’ve never experienced emotions like this after a tournament.”
Bradley won the PGA Championship in 2011 for a fast start to his career. The rest has been more of a challenge.
“This (victory) is high up there,” he said. “I really put a lot of work in during this off season and this is what I want to do. I want to win tournaments. I want to play Ryder Cups. I want to be in the conversation and this is a good start.”
Bradley said he took a lesson from Tiger Woods after playing 36 holes with him at the 2019 event, which Woods won.
“To watch him win up close was spectacular,” Bradley said. “I was thinking about it the whole day today, just remembering Tiger, how he walked a little slower then. So I just tried to do that.”
Bradley’s last PGA Tour victory was in 2018 at the BMW Championship. This is his fifth Tour victory, and he won this one from the front.
“Of my five, I haven’t really won that many leading the entire day like I did today. I really learned a lot and I think I can take a lot of that going forward the rest of the year,” he said.
Fowler also has not won on the tour for more that three years, and Putnam is winless in four.
“Kind of bittersweet,” said Fowler, who led by one stroke after three rounds. “Obviously, I wanted to get the job done.”
“Final round,” he added. “I’ve haven’t been there a whole lot in the last couple of years.”