Monday, July 22, 2024

Keegan Bradley, not Tiger Woods, named U.S. Ryder Cup captain

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The PGA of America’s decision to appoint Keegan Bradley as the next Ryder Cup captain for Team USA was a surprise to many in the golf world, especially considering that Tiger Woods reportedly was under strong consideration.

It was a surprise to Bradley, too.

“I didn’t have a single conversation about this with anyone until I was told I was captain,” he said Tuesday at a news conference in New York.

Many golf fans were hoping the PGA of America would turn to Woods after the Americans’ noncompetitive Ryder Cup showing last year in a 16½-11½ loss to the Europeans in Italy. U.S. captain Zach Johnson received criticism for several reasons, including the six captain’s picks (who combined to go 4-12-4), the pairing decisions and what was perceived as lax preparation and insufficient motivation for the event.

Instead, the PGA of America tabbed Bradley to lead the team next year at Bethpage Black on Long Island. It’s an outside-the-box selection; U.S. Ryder Cup captains tend to be golfers on the downside of their playing careers. But Bradley, 38, is ranked 19th in the world and scored a PGA Tour win as recently as June 2023 at the Travelers Championship. Johnson passed him over for a captain’s choice spot on last year’s team, a move that was criticized at the time.

Bradley also never has been an assistant captain for a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team, which was perceived as a prerequisite for the Ryder Cup job. As a player, he has appeared on just two Ryder Cup teams — both of them losers, in 2012 and 2014 — and has a 4-3 match record.

Bradley said Tuesday he still wanted to earn a playing spot on the team but only would accept it if he made the roster via automatic qualification, earning points via his play in the events leading up to next year’s Ryder Cup. He said he would not choose himself as one of the captain’s picks (last year, the U.S. team was composed of six automatic qualifiers and six captain’s picks).

“One thing that is important to me is I want to play on the team,” Bradley said.

After Johnson informed Bradley in August that he would not be on the 2023 team, Bradley posted a photo of his Ryder Cup bag from 2012, when the United States lost to Europe by a point. Bradley revealed that he had not opened the bag since the Sunday of that loss and would not open it again until he was on a winning Ryder Cup team.

Johnson’s phone call to Bradley, informing him that he was being left off the Ryder Cup team, was captured on Netflix’s documentary “Full Swing.”

“That moment was real, I was crushed,” Bradley said Tuesday. “It took us awhile to get over that, our whole family, we were devastated. … I know what a tough decision that Zach had. Now sitting here as the captain I have a different perspective about what he was going through.”

Bradley said Tuesday that Johnson himself relayed the news that he would be the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain in a phone call on June 23.

Woods captained Team USA to a 16-14 comeback victory over the International team at the 2019 Presidents Cup in Australia, but the Ryder Cup is seen as a step up in prestige. As a player, Woods appeared eight times at the Ryder Cup but posted a 13-21-3 record, and the Americans won the trophy just once with Woods on the roster.

In a statement from Woods released Tuesday during Bradley’s news conference, Woods said he “would not be able to commit the time to Team USA and the players required as a captain.” He is heavily involved in PGA Tour governance, having been named vice chair of the newly created PGA Tour Enterprises board of directors, and is among the key players trying to broker an agreement between the tour and LIV Golf’s Saudi funders. Woods also is still playing despite injuries that recently have limited his appearances to the major championships.

“That does not mean I wouldn’t want to captain a team in the future,” Woods said about possibly being a Ryder Cup captain at some point down the road. “If and when I feel it is the right time, I will put my hat in the ring for this committee to decide.”

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