Sunday, July 14, 2024

‘Could go very, very badly’: Ryder Cup bombshell as ‘wild’ move flips script in ‘boys club’ row

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In a stunning Ryder Cup reversal, Keegan Bradley has been picked as America’s next captain, less than one year after he was controversially snubbed from the team altogether amid the nation’s ‘boys club’ controversy.

The 38-year-old was on Monday named as the man to lead Team USA at Bethpage Black in 2025 after Tiger Woods reportedly turned down the role.

It was a surprise announcement to send shockwaves through the PGA Tour given Bradley’s tortured history with the event, in which he has only featured in twice.

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Bradley, the 2011 PGA Championship winner, was a controversial omission last year, overlooked by then-captain Zach Johnson who selected known friends Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Ricky Fowler among his picks, as well as Scottie Scheffler’s close friend Sam Burns.

Bradley was ranked 11th in the US standings but didn’t make the cut for the 12-player team that was ultimately trounced in Rome, leading to Johnson becoming a figure of ridicule in the US, including at this year’s Masters.

Keegan Bradley has been picked as America’s next captain.
Keegan Bradley has been picked as America’s next captain.Source: AFP

Johnson’s rejection call to Bradley was captured on Netflix’s Full Swing, showing in excruciating detail how much the snub hurt the American veteran.

The documentary went on to show that Bradley still hasn’t unpacked his suitcase from the 2012 Ryder Cup, haunted by the memories of narrow defeat at Medinah.

“The Ryder Cup means so much to Keegan,” his wife Jill says. “And he’ll say it’s some of the best and absolute worst memories of his life.

“He just never unpacked (the suitcase). I think it is just the thought of opening it, reliving the grief of how that ended, was just kind of too much to bear.”

Now, with Johnson not returning to the role, Bradley has a shot at ultimate redemption by leading America on home soil next year.

As things stand, Bradley is ranked 18th in the US and is battling to qualify for this year’s Presidents Cup. But, as captain next year, he has the luxury of being able to select himself for the Ryder Cup, should he so choose.

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His elevation to captain has been met with widespread praise from experts in the US, who believe Bradley’s passion makes him a suitable pick to lead the nation.

“What a great move from the PGA of America,” wrote leading US golf journalist Dan Rapaport.

“Keegan will bring incredible energy and approach the captaincy from a different perspective as he’s still an elite player. He’s a young guy who’s great with media and he will attack this opportunity.”

He added: “Also can’t ignore the positive PR after last year’s drama was aired all over Netflix. Great stuff all around and major credit for thinking outside the box.”

The Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis said Bradley’s appointment was a “game changer” for the US, while CBS’s Kyle Porter said he’s “all the way in on” the star as captain.

“It’s a little wild, but I love the PGA mixing it up and taking a chance,” Porter wrote.

“It obviously could go very (very) badly, but that’s always true with a Ryder Cup captain. And Keegan isn’t scared of personal or team vulnerability or big moments.

“He truly, deeply cares, which is not a given. And caring — among many other things — is actually a much better reason to select a captain than career resume.”

Zach Johnson was snubbed from returning to the role after heavy defeat in Rome.Source: AFP

Bradley’s appointment, and last year’s humbling in Rome, means there will be more intrigue than ever on the United States captain’s picks next year.

Last year’s selections saw the team labelled as the US “Boys Club” with Johnson accused of showing favouritism towards friends of players who had automatically qualified.

It’s worth noting, however, that Johnson, Spieth and Thomas all sit on the PGA of America committee that had a major role in electing Bradley as captain.

In taking the top job, however, Bradley only spoke of his enthusiasm for the event.

“My passion and appreciation for golf’s greatest team event have never been stronger,” Bradley said on Monday.

“The Ryder Cup is unlike any other competition in our sport, and this edition will undoubtedly be particularly special given the rich history and enthusiastic spectators at this iconic course.”

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Woods was long assumed to be the frontrunner for the job, but multiple US reports Monday said he had opted out of contention.

PGA of America President John Lindert said: “Keegan’s past Ryder Cup experience, strong relationships and unwavering passion for this event will prove invaluable as he guides the US Team over the next year and a half.

“We are confident that, with Keegan at the helm, the 2025 US Ryder Cup Team will compete at Bethpage with the same confidence and determination that has defined his career.”

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