Bradley was the first player to win a major championship with a belly putter. The World Challenge was his first event after the USGA announced its anchoring ban, and he was called a "cheater" by a heckler in an incident that was well-publicized. Otherwise, he says golf fans have been overwhelmingly supportive. "When [the proposed rule change] was announced, I got hundreds and maybe thousands of comments on Twitter from people saying, 'Keegan, will you please fight this? I'm 60, I've been putting with one for 30 years, my back is bad, I can't play without one. Please fight for me.' That was amazing."
The anchoring ban won't kick in until Jan. 1, 2016, and Bradley is in no hurry to make a change, even though he knows that rubs some people the wrong way. "Who knows what the reaction will be when one of us wins a tournament with a long putter," he says. "Or a major. It's inevitable it will be spoken about." Bradley is confident he'll have no trouble adapting to a new putter. He won numerous college events with what he calls "a shortie" and also used one to take his first professional victory, on the Hooters tour in 2009. "I've always grabbed my buddies' putters just for fun, so the shorter putters still feel comfortable," he says. "People are under the impression I'm scared to putt with one, or I have the yips or something. That's ridiculous. I'll be fine."
In fact, the putter controversy may be helpful to golf's most obsessive-compulsive young star, who heading into the Tournament of Champions was up to 13th in the World Ranking but forever looking for something to prove. "This putter stuff simply adds to the whole underdog thing," Bradley says. "I love it. It's more fuel for me."
With that final thought, he excused himself from dinner. It was 7:30 on a humid Hawaiian night. Bradley had some TV to watch, and it was getting late.