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American team gets it right with surprise Bradley captaincy


To say the selection of Keegan Bradley as Team USA's captain for the 2025 Ryder Cup was surprising is an understatement.

It was so shocking that even Bradley was caught off guard when he was offered the position. In Tuesday's introductory press conference, Bradley said he wasn't aware he was under consideration until he was told the job was his.

He was never on anybody's radar. And why would he be?

Ever since Bethpage Black was announced as the host venue for 2025, Phil Mickelson was pegged as the obvious choice. It was a perfect fit given his experience and the mutual love between New Yorkers and "Lefty." Plus, everyone drooled over the potential for a Mickelson-versus-Ian Poulter Ryder Cup.

But Mickelson's - and Poulter's, for that matter - bridge-burning departure to LIV forced the PGA of America to go elsewhere.

It was thought Tiger Woods would be the next man up. After a successful run as the 2019 Presidents Cup captain and numerous stints as an assistant, Tiger seemed like an ideal option, especially since it's only a matter of time before he leads a Ryder Cup.

But it doesn't appear the timing was right for Woods. He turned down the opportunity, unable to commit the time and energy required as he takes on a larger role in attempting to mend the relationship between the PGA TOUR and LIV.

With Tiger out of the picture, the attention immediately turned to a far more traditional name - Stewart Cink.

Cink fits the mold of past captains. He's a major winner, a member of eight Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, and he recently served as an assistant captain - a key prerequisite for prospective captains.

Cink is also from the same era as recent captains Steve Stricker, Davis Love III, Jim Furyk, and, most recently, Zach Johnson.

No one would have batted an eye had the PGA of America gone with Cink, or even decided to run things back with Stricker or Love. Those selections wouldn't have given the event the same juice as Mickelson or Woods, but they would have made sense.

Bradley's name never came up in speculation, and there are obvious reasons why.

He'll only be 39 in September next year, is still a highly competitive golfer, and has no experience in an assistant role. He was in the mix to make the 2023 team and openly discussed his goals of playing in future Ryder Cups.

Why would he want to take the position while it's believed he still has a good chance to make it as a player?

Let's face it - he doesn't have the stature within the game to pick himself as a playing captain as Tiger did in 2019. So, the slim possibility remains that Bradley automatically qualifies for the team and has to relinquish some - or all - of his captain duties to someone else.

Maybe he's accepted that his best playing days are behind him and, with the deep crop of American players, he'll unlikely have as good of a shot as he had in 2023. If Bradley is at peace with that, everyone else should be, too.

But even though the Bradley selection was shocking - and somewhat forced upon the PGA of America due to a lack of options - it couldn't have been a better choice.

Going with Bradley signals a much-needed philosophical change for an American group searching for answers after a disastrous loss in Rome.

Bradley's omission in 2023, which came to the forefront during Netflix's second season of "Full Swing," highlighted a big problem. The U.S. team was turning into a closed-door program, and if you weren't "in" with those on the team, you didn't have a chance.

"I've always been an outsider in the sport, but I have tried to get closer to the guys I thought would be on the team," Bradley said after not being picked last year. "I feel like moving forward, I'm going to have to automatically qualify for the Ryder Cup."

Being friends with certain players shouldn't increase your chances of being picked. Bradley's captaincy should put an end to the buddy-buddy system that failed miserably in Rome.

The issues surrounding America's team didn't go away after Johnson made his picks, either. A dark cloud hung over the group when rumors about some players' discontent with their compensation - or lack thereof - surfaced during the event.

You know who would have loved to represent the USA without asking for a penny in return? The man who won't open his 2012 Ryder Cup bag until he wins one.

Bradley will undoubtedly bring pride and passion to a team that sometimes seems to lack those immeasurables - especially compared to the tight-knit European side.

Perhaps a captain who cares too much is meaningless and won't transfer to on-course success, but at least we know Bradley will pour his heart into leading his players and do everything he can to help them win.

Let's not discredit Bradley's resume, either. He's a major champion, has participated in two Ryder Cups and a Presidents Cup, and is a six-time PGA TOUR winner. It wouldn't have been nearly the same surprise had this captaincy been announced 10 years from now.

Plus, who doesn't love a good underdog story? From Ryder Cup snub to the team's next captain. What a difference a year makes.

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