KAPALUA, Hawaii — As the PGA Tour season was nearing completion last August, Keegan Bradley found he was missing his younger self. So, he decided that he needed to find a way to make a part of himself go missing.
It was at the BMW Championship at Wilmington Country Club in Delaware that Bradley realized he wasn’t in the kind of shape required to play his best golf. He shot a closing five-over 76 to finish T-58 and failed to advance to the Tour Championship. He wasn’t swinging optimally. He wasn’t thinking as clearly. “I wasn’t feeling that good in general, but on the course, I felt like I was kind of fatiguing,” said the 36-year-old on Thursday at the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort, where he opened the Sentry Tournament of Champions with a three-under 70 that included birdies on two of his last three holes.
For years the former PGA champion had bought into the same fitness regimen as most of his peers that included strength training. When the 6-foot-3 Vermont native turned pro in 2008 out of St. John’s University, he was a wiry 190 pounds. Over the years he had bulked up to 220.
Wondering what he could do differently to improve his overall health, Bradley consulted one of his Florida neighbors, Dr. Joshua Levitt, who with his wife Amanda founded a nutritional company called UpWellness. (Fellow professional golfers Brendan Steele and Charley Hull are endorsers of its products.) Bradley accepted the recommendation to radically change his diet to almost nothing but meat.
“If it walks, swims or flies, you can eat it, and I did a lot of fruit as well,” said Bradley, whose transformation has been so stunning that some fellow players asked if he might be ill. “So, I’d have eggs in the morning, maybe chicken or ground beef for lunch and then steak at night. All grass-fed meat is the key. No vegetables. And no condiments, no sides, no starches, not even ketchup. All I did was salt, pepper … and some hot sauce.”
He also cut out soda and Gatorade, and while doing all this he also incorporated a cardio exercise regimen that included a stationary bike and elliptical training and only light weightlifting. Bradley said the dietary transition was mentally challenging, but he was committed to seeing where it would take him and what difference it might have on his game.
“This is what I did for months, and it’s very difficult,” he said. “The times where I’m just craving you know, a piece of pizza or pasta I was telling myself, ‘No, this is this is part of the journey. It’s part of the process.’ But I feel good. I feel proud for doing it.”
By the time he showed up at the Zozo Championship in Japan in mid-October, Bradley was back down to 190 pounds, but he hadn’t lost any distance or swing speed and felt like he was swinging with more ease. After a T-5 at the Sanderson Farms Championship to begin the fall season, Bradley put together four solid rounds at Accordia Golf Narshino Country Club, including a closing two-under 68, and defeated Rickie Fowler and Andrew Putnam by a stroke for his fifth PGA Tour title but first since 2018.
“At Zozo, coming down the stretch, I felt so good, and that whole week I felt so good,” Bradley said. “Even at CJ Cup, the week after with no sleep, jet lag, I put a good week together [T-21]. And I just felt like [I have in] years past.”
Currently second in the FedEx Cup standings as the tour schedule resumes at Kapalua Resort, Bradley said he firmly believes he is in the best position in years to succeed and achieve his goals. He has backed off his carnivore diet slightly, but only because he doesn’t seek to lose additional weight. He’d dearly love to add a few more pounds in holding trophies and other cups.
“I want to make the Ryder Cup team,” he said, ticking off goals for the year. “I’m second in the FedEx Cup, I want to stay there near the top. I went to 25th in the world, and I want to go forward. And I want to compete in more tournaments. I feel like, if I’m in better shape and feel better, physically, that’s only going to help.
“You know, a lot of people when they see me, they want to give me advice. ‘Now is when you should bulk up and lift.’ And that’s not really what I’m looking to do. I’m just trying to feel better on the course. And I feel like I play my best golf when I’m super lean, kind of like when I first came out on tour. You know, it’s very easy to fall into when you’re out here to do what everyone does and what you’re hearing. But it’s important to learn what’s best for you as a player.”
For Keegan Bradley, he’s finding that less of him is becoming more fulfilling.