Bradley and McIlroy surged ahead, and Bradley looked forward to more occasions like that.
"I love playing with Rory for a lot of reasons," he said. "We're both very competitive, and I like the kid. He's just a good kid, a good Irish kid."
The 25-year-old Bradley was reminded that the kid was only three years younger.
But there seems to be an appreciation that McIlroy soon could be the guy against whom players measure themselves. Bradley was a two-time winner last year as a rookie, and his work on the short game — particularly his chipping — appears to be paying off. There were several holes where Bradley turned potential trouble into an easy par.
"There's nothing more in the game of golf that makes me feel good than chipping up close," he said. "It's better than making a 50-foot bomb or hitting a 300-yard drive. It's been the different between being in the middle of the pack and contending."
McIlroy is contending just about every time he plays, and this is an important stretch. He has two tournaments left before he takes his three-week break to prepare for the Masters.
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