Keegan Bradley – a left-field choice, but one I’m embracing

Mark McGowan

Keegan Bradley in Ryder Cup mode (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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So, Keegan Bradley will be the U.S. Ryder Cup captain in 2025. If you’re not on the PGA of America’s selection committee and you saw that coming, then I’d like to buy you a drink. Though the drinks should probably be on you, as I’m sure the bookmakers were offering extremely healthy odds on a man who could and probably should have had a playing role in Rome and has had no backroom involvement under the four captains who’ve led the Americans since he last played in 2014.

So, a surprising choice for sure, but in the dozen or so hours I’ve had to digest the news – the majority of that spent sleeping, I’ll admit – I’ve come round to the idea. Keegan Bradley? Why not?

I’ve written numerous pieces on why I think the role a captain plays is overblown. Are they a factor? Of course! Are they the primary factor? Most certainly not! Pádraig Harrington is one of the most well-liked and well-respected European pros of the past quarter of a century, and a man famed for his attention to detail, for his work ethic and for his passion for the game, yet the European side he captained at Whistling Straits were trounced in record-breaking fashion.

Why? It’s because most of the European players played abysmal golf relative to their abilities and the Americans, far superior as a collective, actually brought their A games. Was it Harrington’s fault that Rory McIlroy was in a slump? That Paul Casey was particularly hopeless? Not so, according to Casey himself who described Harrington as the best captain he’d ever played for.

So, if I don’t quite buy into myth that captains are the winning and losing of Ryder Cups, why do I feel that Bradley’s appointment is one to be welcomed?

It’s not because I think it’ll lead to an abject U.S. performance, that’s for sure. Again, I’ve gone on the record multiple times saying that I’d rather see the Americans win the cup in a nail-biting finish than watch Europe win in a landslide, – though a narrow European win is the ideal scenario – because final day drama makes for the greatest entertainment and above all, that’s what the Ryder Cup is. It’s entertainment.

And, love him or hate him, Keegan Bradley will bring an entertainment value all his own. As much as Davis Love III, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson are consummate professionals and deserving of respect, they’re somewhat vanilla and all cut from the same cloth.

Bradley breaks the mold. He’s eccentric, he’s impassioned, and he’s shown that he’s willing to get confrontational when the situation calls for it – or at least when he thinks it calls for it – as evidenced by Miguel Angel Jimenez and himself getting in each other’s grills at the WGC Matchplay a few years back.

While there are only three days of actual play, the Ryder Cup has grown into a monster, filling column inches for months beforehand and after the fact, and each and every time the respective captains open their mouths in the leadup, us scribes get scribbling. But rehashing the same generic lip service over and over again gets tiresome, so I’m hoping Bradley offers something different.

By his own admission, he’s not part of the clique. He rubs people up the wrong way, and I’d predict that he won’t shy away from making unpopular choices when it comes to his captain’s picks.

Nor his vice captains.

Imagine he selects his old sidekick Mickelson as a vice captain. Imagine Luke Donald selects Jimenez as one of his. Imagine that he plays well between now and then and gives himself a pick? Imagine he doesn’t play well but still gives himself a pick?

Imagine him selecting Patrick Reed and not Jordan Spieth. Imagine what he’d say to Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele if they’re whining about the lack of reimbursement for their presence.

Imagine he drums up the New York crowd and encourages them to do what they do best; be loud, be obnoxious, be totally over the top.

As a Ryder Cup player, he was effective, he whooped, he hollered, he celebrated victories wildly and he took his losses hard. He was everything that a Ryder Cup player should be. So here’s hoping he brings a flavour of that to captaincy.

For better or worse, he’s an entertaining choice. And it is entertainment, after all….

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