Until his 136-yard wedge shot on his final hole Thursday.
“It was going right at it. (A 59) crossed my mind for a second, and it would be unbelievable if I buried this,” Bradley said. “But I had 3 feet to shoot 60. I was actually very nervous, uncomfortable over it and thank God I made it.”
Bradley shot 10-under 60, completed by that short birdie at the 428-yard ninth hole, to break the TPC Four Seasons course record and match the best round ever at the Nelson. He topped his career PGA Tour best by three strokes and equaled Phil Mickelson’s opening 60 at Phoenix as the best round on the tour this season.
After missing the fairways off the tees and making bogeys at No. 18 and then No. 1, the latter starting his back nine when he drove into a bunker and had a par putt lip out of the cup, Bradley was at 3 under. He made a 17-foot birdie putt at the 221-yard second hole, and was 7 under his final eight holes with an eagle-birdie-birdie finish.
“It was rare to match up a ball-striking day and make everything. ... It happened (Thursday),” Bradley said. “The hole looked huge. Even the putts I missed almost went in.”
The 60, with 10 birdies and an eagle 3 at the 542-yard seventh, gave Bradley a three-stroke lead over 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.
Robert Karlsson, Harris English and Ted Potter Jr. shot 64, and two-time major champion Angel Cabrera, Ryan Palmer and Camilo Villegas were at 65.
Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old amateur from China, shot 70 in his second tournament since making the cut at the Masters. The eighth-grader also made the cut in New Orleans three weeks ago.
Guan was among 97 players at par or better — 76 were under par — on the 7,166-yard course after 1½ inches of rain fell on the course Wednesday night from a storm system that spawned at least 13 tornadoes and killed at least six people in North Texas. There was no significant damage to the course, where players were able to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairways.
“Seems like you don’t get many of those opportunities, so being out here first was a bit of an advantage,” said Schwartzel, who hit all 18 greens in regulation. “So much rain, it softened up. Played long off the tee, but it’s a big advantage going into the greens with the second shot. ... You could attack flags.”
Arron Oberholser shot 60 in the second round of the 2006 Nelson on the Cottonwood Valley course across the street that used to be used the first two rounds. Sam Snead shot 60 in the 1957 tournament at Glen Lakes Country Club, which at the time tied the PGA Tour record.
Five players have shot 59 in official PGA Tour events. Al Geiberger had the first in the 1977 Memphis Classic, while Paul Goydos and Stuart Appleby had the last three years ago. Ryo Ishikawa had the lowest round on a major tour, shooting a 12-under 58 on the Japan Tour in 2010.
Bradley, the nephew of former LPGA Tour star Pat Bradley, got his first PGA Tour victory when he won a one-hole playoff with Palmer at the Nelson two years ago. Bradley has four consecutive top-10 finishes earlier this season, but missed the cuts in his last two tournaments.
Palmer’s opening 65 came two days after attending the funeral of one of his best friends, who was killed in a car accident last week. Palmer found out about Clay Aderholt’s accident while at The Players Championship, where with a heavy heart and his friend’s initials on his cap he tied for fifth.
“Trying to get back in the swing of things,” said Palmer, who lives in nearby Colleyville. “Being at home is nice, my own bed, so that made it easier when I got back (from the funeral) Tuesday night.”
Palmer gave the white cap that he wore Sunday to Aderholt’s wife and signed it to his 4-year-old son. He gave a black cap with the initials to his late friend’s father.
“We will always remember him and maybe we can honor him even more on Sunday afternoon,” Palmer said.
Defending Nelson champion Jason Dufner shot a 70 in a group with good friends Bradley and Matt Kuchar (69).
“It was a regular round with Duff and Kuch. It felt like a Saturday morning round with my buddies,” Bradley said. “It felt easy.”
There were even pre-round shenanigans when Bradley went into the champions’ locker room Thursday morning to find his clubs spread out on the floor and his open umbrella near his empty golf bag, courtesy of Dufner.
“He loves to mess with me,” said Bradley, who slyly retaliated. “I’m too scared to do anything too much because I don’t know what he will do. He could throw my clubs in the water. ... I did remove something from his locker that he is going to have trouble finding and he’s going to need.”
Guan had a bogey at the par-3 second after his tee shot off the back of the green. He blasted out of a bunker to 3 feet for a birdie at the seventh hole, then got under par with a 13-foot birdie putt at the ninth hole. A three-putt bogey at the 406-yard 14th dropped him back to even.
“I missed a couple of birdie putts in the middle but overall not a bad round,” Guan said. “After the Masters and New Orleans, I still feel nervous on the first tee but not too much, and I handle it pretty good in the middle fairway and kept it going.”