Saturday, July 13, 2024

Potential U.S. Ryder Cup players support Keegan Bradley as captain in 2025

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GULLANE, Scotland – Reaction among potential members of next year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team was similar to how fans digested Monday’s news that Keegan Bradley will lead the 2025 team at Bethpage Black – surprise.

“I was surprised because I feel like it was such a different direction we’ve gone in the past. I’m definitely not mad about it,” said Rickie Fowler Tuesday at the Genesis Scottish Open.

But if player reaction was similar to how the fans processed the news, there was also a measure of optimism among those who will be vying for a spot on next year’s team, primarily driven by Bradley’s renowned enthusiasm for the event.

“I love Keegan, he’s high-energy, he’s very kind, I feel like he’s very thoughtful and I think he cares quite a bit about the Ryder Cup as well, so the passion will be there,” Max Homa said. “High-energy’s not bad, I like rah-rah stuff. I know it’s a little corny but corny is not always a bad thing.”

Bradley breaks the mold established for captains in recent years by the PGA of America on multiple fronts, including his age, who at 39 when the matches are contested, will be the youngest captain since Arnold Palmer, 34, in 1963.

That too, players contend, isn’t a problem given the U.S. team’s poor record the last few decades against the Europeans, who reclaimed the Ryder Cup last year with a commanding 16 ½-11 ½ victory in Rome.

“It could be a great change,” Fowler said. “You can’t expect to do the same things and hope for better outcomes.”

Bradley also doesn’t follow the formula established by the U.S. Ryder Cup task force, which was created following another lopsided loss in 2014 in Scotland, that laid the groundwork for continuity among captains by creating a pathway via multiple turns as a vice captain. Bradley has never served as a vice captain.

But it’s Bradley’s emotion and commitment to the matches, which he has played twice and has a 4-3-0 record, that players said gave them reason to be optimistic.

“I don’t think anyone can doubt his passion or his intensity and fire, which I think as a player I want a captain I’m going to battle for,” Justin Thomas said. “I want to feel like they are going to want it as bad as I do. I know Keegan’s intensity and he’s going to want it.”

Jordan Spieth echoed those comments.

“Just look at the passion he plays with week in and week out, let alone in Ryder Cups and big moments, he’s a guy everybody can get behind,” Spieth said. “He cares so much he’s going to take whatever necessary steps are needed from a captain to make sure everybody is heard and everybody feels like they’re playing a normal tournament and are as best prepared as they can be.”

Bradley’s age and his competitive form — he’s currently 24th on the U.S. team standings and was in the mix for a potential pick last year — was also cited as a potential advantage.

“I feel like [Steve] Stricker and Zach [Johnson] and Davis [Love III], they all can do it in their own way but I’m closer with Keegan. He’s a little closer to my age, so maybe that connection will be really good,” Homa said.

That connection could also create another deviation for the U.S. if Bradley were able to play his way onto the team next year. Bradley said during his Tuesday press conference in New York that he would play on the team if he qualified, but would not pick himself.

The PGA of America’s move to a team manager, a role filled by former PGA Tour caddie and NBC Sports analyst John Wood, could help a potential playing captain by taking over normal demands on a captain’s time. But Bradley would be the first playing captain for the U.S. team since Palmer in ’63.

“We know how much the Ryder Cup means to Keegan and he can play his way on and be a playing captain,” Fowler said. “If you look at our lack of success we’ve had in the last few years, the addition of a manager, with John Wood being in that role right now, it takes a lot of the day to day a potential captain has to put into it.”

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