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NEW YORK STATE OF MIND: The Barclays feels like a homecoming for Keegan Bradley, especially at Bethpage Black.

Bradley played college golf at St. John’s, so he knows area well and referred to the Black as his favorite course in the world. Bradley is among the very few who have played this course without having to sleep in the parking lot to get a tee time, or even have to worry about anyone on the course.

He called it a great secret, even if everyone knows about it by now.

The superintendent, Craig Currier, used to let the St. John’s golf team come to the course on Monday, when it was closed.

“We’d pull up and park at his superintendent’s house, and we’d start on the third hole and play, because there was nobody out here,” he said. “We could play all of us in one group _ seven, eight guys _ just having such fun little matches and basically having Bethpage Black to ourselves, which I don’t know if there’s anybody in the world that’s ever experienced that. Normally you’re out here, it’s a six-hour round, it’s brutal.”

That explains why one of the toughest moments in his young career came in 2009, before Bradley made it to the PGA Tour, when he tried to qualify for the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. He made bogey on the last two holes of sectional qualifying and missed out by one shot.

“I was devastated,” he said. “So I’m so happy to be able to come back and play here and have a chance to play in front of these fans.”

The last time Bradley played Bethpage Black was his first year as a pro in 2008 at the New York State Open. It wasn’t a U.S. Open, but it felt like one.

“Sometimes at these New York Opens they have here, they like to punish us and test out how tough it’s going to be,” Bradley said. “Like I said, I love the course, and any round under par is going to be good this week.”

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TIGER CLOSING IN: Tiger Woods won the 2002 U.S. Open and tied for sixth in the 2009 U.S. Open when they were played at Bethpage Black.

At stake this week at The Barclays is not a chance for a 15th major, rather another milestone in a career filled with them. Woods needs to earn $225,300 _ the equivalent of a finish inside the top 10 _ to break the $100 million mark in PGA Tour earnings.

Not so interesting is the race to see who is No. 2 in career earnings. Vijay Singh has a $326,374 lead over Phil Mickelson for second place.

Mickelson has a good track record at Bethpage, too. He was runner-up to Woods in 2002, and a runner-up to Lucas Glover in 2009.

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