This year’s ZOZO Championship marked the first notable event of the 2022-23 season. The likes of Viktor Hovland, Collin Morikawa, and Xander Schauffele set out to take the trophy from reigning champion Hideki Matsuyama.
However, the big story was the resurgence of two almost forgotten golfers who were both looking to regain their confidence on the PGA Tour.
After an exciting week, it was Keegan Bradley who came out on top over Rickie Fowler. This was Bradley’s first victory since the 2018 BMW Championship over four years ago.
Keegan Bradley, now 36 years old, was visibly emotional after claiming the ZOZO Championship title. The win was in large part thanks to a heroic attempt on the 17th that would lead to a birdie and a 2-stroke lead entering the final hole.
From there, it would be a walk of relief down 18 for Keegan on his way to victory. Keegan explained the whole experience afterward saying:
"“I kind of realized if I make this putt, I’ve got a two-shot lead going down 18, which I thought, ‘Boy, that would be nice to have two there. And I just buried it. It’s the perfect putt, meant to be and I’m proud of the way I handled that hole.”"
Once ranked 10th in the World all the way back in 2013, many forget that Keegan Bradley was once a star on the PGA Tour, thanks to his 2011 PGA Championship victory over fellow American Jason Dufner.
Keegan Bradley jumped to 23rd in the OWGR following his win.
Bradley has now climbed 19 spots to 23rd in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR), a big improvement from his ranking of 87th last season.
Known as one of the slower-paced golfers on Tour, most notably on the green, Bradley has no remorse for his methods, he even credited Tiger Woods after saying:
"“Anytime you play with Tiger, it’s really great, but to watch him win up close was spectacular and I learned a lot. I was thinking about it the whole day today, just kind of remembering Tiger and how he walked a little slower than I noticed in the past, and I tried to do that.” “I was never going to give up or let in and I knew I was still in a good spot to win the tournament.”"
Can Rickie Fowler maintain momentum?
Rickie Fowler was once a top-ranked golfer on Tour ranking as high as 4th in 2016. Fast forward to today and the American has to qualify for the biggest events through Monday qualifiers. It has surely been a difficult pill to swallow for Rickie in recent years.
But now Fowler has the chance to build upon a much-needed T-2 finish in Japan at the ZOZO Championship. The key going forward according to Rickie is to build off the momentum.
"“Kind of bittersweet. Obviously wanted to get the job done and I felt very good going into today. Felt, you know, probably as good as you can feel out there. Final round, haven’t been there a whole lot in the last couple years, really just didn’t give myself many opportunities until the end.” “Definitely excited about having a couple good finishes to start the season and a lot of good stuff coming.”"
Rickie Fowler’s finish this week is his best since a T-3 finish at the CJ Cup last year. The 33-year-old currently sits outside the top 100 in the OWGR and the hope is that finishes like this past week will change all of that very soon.
He is now ranked 7th in FedEx Cup Standings thanks to his excellent finish in Japan and Rickie can certainly hold his head high regardless of the fact that his final round 70 was not enough to hoist the trophy this time.
With another exciting week of golf behind us, everyone can now look ahead to this year’s CJ Cup in South Carolina at Congaree Golf Club.
All eyes will be on the star-studded CJ Cup field watching to see if Rory McIlroy can defend his title from last year.