12 reasons why Keegan Bradley is the best choice for United States Ryder Cup captain

It's apparently now the law that some out-of-the-blue thunderbolt has to rock the golf world every six months or so. At least this time around, the news has nothing to do with fractures, division or defection. This week brought the legitimately shocking news that Keegan Bradley will captain the 2025 Ryder Cup team — this, just months after Bradley was passed over for the 2023 team and had his heart ripped out of his chest in HD on Netflix's "Full Swing" documentary.

"The dream of being a Ryder Cup captain is something that a lot of us don't even think about because it's such a prestigious honor," Bradley said at his introductory press conference Tuesday. "I never knew if I'd get this opportunity. I always felt like this is something that I would love to do and be able to handle. I'm so honored to be able to be the leader of this team. And I'm going to Bethpage to win the Ryder Cup back for America."

Bradley is a bold choice for captain, some would say a foolish choice … but here are 12 reasons why this is the right choice. (Why 12 and not the typical golf-list 18? Read on.)

1. Sometimes the Golf Gods even the scales. Bradley didn't quite perform well enough to earn an automatic slot on the 2023 team, and that meant his fate was in then-captain Zach Johnson's hands. That turned out to be bad news indeed for Bradley, since Johnson opted to go with frequent housemates Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. On the Ryder Cup points list, Bradley ranked higher than three of the captain's picks, but was left at home. (To be fair, Cam Young ranked higher than four and also wasn't selected.) Bradley has spent most of his pro career focused on the Ryder Cup, and thus, watching him receive Johnson's awkward no-go call on "Full Swing" was absolutely gutting.

"That moment was real. I was crushed," Bradley said. "It took us a while to get over that. Our whole family, we were devastated. But I'm American. I root for the Americans to win the Ryder Cup. I watch whether I'm playing or whether I'm not. I know all the guys on the team and I bleed red, white, and blue. I was thrilled to be able to watch these guys, and I was pulling for them."

2. Bradley might be the most passionate player on the American side. While Europe treats the Ryder Cup as a sacred challenge, American players tend to view it as another stop on the calendar. Win, lose, oh well, there's another tournament to be played. Granted, that's an oversimplification, but the Americans give the vibe of a band of lone wolves, while the Europeans always feel like a team. Bradley's passion for the Cup is flat-out European, and if he's able to project that enthusiasm onto his team, good results will follow.

"You hear so much about the Ryder Cup, and then when you experience it, it's so much more," Bradley said. "I just loved every second of it. I loved being in the team room. I loved riding to the course with the guys. I loved winning our matches and going out and cheering. I loved every second of it."

3. There's that famous suitcase. Bradley doesn't have the experience of most Ryder Cup captains — he's only played in two, and he has a career 4-3 record — but he's already checked the "obsessive" box. After the United States' 2012 collapse at Medinah, a despondent Bradley returned home and just collapsed, to the point that he didn't even open his suitcase from that day. It's sat unopened for 12 years, a time capsule of a moment and a testament to his singular focus. We can only hope, for Bradley's sake, that he didn't leave any dirty clothes in there. Still, it's a sign that Bradley is either absurdly devoted to Ryder Cup success or a little bit off-center, both of which are good qualities in a U.S. captain.

"The 2012 Ryder Cup is such a strange feeling to me because for every day but the last day, my fondest memories are on a golf course," Bradley said. "Sunday was the worst day on the golf course and one of the worst days of my life. I got home and I kept staring at the suitcase and I couldn't open it because it was so, it was just, I was so sad. The stuff inside the suitcase was just gonna make it worse. So I put it off, I put it off, and then I kept looking at it and it was just, the memories inside there were so extreme on both sides that I decided, I'm gonna wait, I'm not gonna open this up until I've won a Ryder Cup."

4. The home-field advantage. Look, let's be honest — the home-field advantage at the Ryder Cup is so substantial that anyone from Judge Smails to Happy Gilmore to Lee Carvallo could lead the U.S. to victory. The home squad has won 11 of the last 13 Cups, with an average winning margin of five points. If Bradley can't win with the combination of the inherent talent on the U.S. side and the home-court boost, well, the United States has much bigger problems than just the captain.

5. Bradley knows Bethpage. Bradley attended college at St. John's in Queens, only about 30 miles or so from Bethpage Black, the 2025 Ryder Cup host course. While at St. John's, he and teammates would sneak onto the course and play holes thanks to a superintendent who would look the other way. That may or may not help him strategize a way through the three-day Ryder Cup, but at least he'll be on familiar turf, a place where he's already accustomed to taking risks. Plus, even though he's a Boston guy, New York fans will embrace him as one of their own against those damned Europeans.

"The fans are gonna be our 13th team member," Bradley said. "I've always been under the impression that Bethpage is New York's home course. Winged Foot and Shinnecock are amazing courses, but you talk to a real New Yorker, they brag about Bethpage. I've always thought of Bethpage as New York's home course, which is now America's home course. And I want the fans to treat it that way."

6. Phil Mickelson wasn't available. There's a line of succession in Ryder Cups that proceeds through a well-defined set of players from every generation. Johnson, Davis Love III, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk came from golf's Generation X contingent; Stewart Cink was rumored to be in the mix for the job right up until Bradley got it. Mickelson, who loves the Ryder Cup, was the consensus guess for the 2025 captaincy … right up until the moment he decided to bail on the PGA Tour and burn every bridge in sight by jumping to LIV Golf. Bradley and Mickelson have a history of successful Ryder Cup team-ups; could Bradley bring in Lefty as a vice-captain? Perhaps.

7. Bradley is just 38. Ryder Cup captains tend to be players at the far edge of their competitive careers, in sight of the age-50 Champions Tour if not already on it. Bradley, by contrast, is just 38, making him one of the youngest captains in the event's history. (European captain Luke Donald was 45 at last year's event.) Bradley is the first of his generation to get the job, and the first to truly come of age in a post-Tiger golf world. One day, Spieth and Thomas will almost surely be captains, but for now, Bradley is the one who will be tasked with communicating the gravitas of the Ryder Cup to the millennial generation of players.

8. Bradley isn't one of the Cool Kids. After the Gleneagles debacle in 2014, when an out-of-touch Tom Watson sparked a mutiny led by Mickelson, a new Ryder Cup Task Force sought to establish criteria for creating a winning tradition. The plan was to create a seamless European-style transition between captains, rather than the start-from-scratch-every-two-years routine that had been the norm. The Task Force mutated into a cool kids' table that culminated in last year's buddy trip. Bradley is, by his own admission, an outsider in the insular world at the top of golf right now, and that could work in his favor. You don't win Ryder Cups with attitude and arrogance.

"I'm going to take a fresh look at my vice captains," Bradley said. "They're going to be a lot younger, closer to playing. I think that I'm going to be out there with the guys. I'm going to be playing in the same tournaments they're going to be playing in. I'm going to be playing in majors with them. I'm going to be playing week-to-week ... I'm going to have a year of being with the guys as a peer."

9. Tiger Woods wasn't available. Once Mickelson ejected from a potential captaincy, all eyes turned to Tiger Woods. He doesn't have a stellar Ryder Cup record, but he has the respect of every player on the planet. He's close to many of the next generation of players in a way that Watson, for instance, wasn't. But Woods is also deeply involved in the merger/investment snarl between the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund. Plus, the public demands of a captaincy are substantial; it's possible Woods simply didn't want to devote that much time to the endeavor. Regardless, he reportedly took himself out of the running for the slot, opening a pathway for Bradley.

Woods released a statement about his own prospects as captain: “With my new responsibilities to the Tour and time commitments involved, I felt like I would not be able to commit the time to Team USA and the players required as a captain,” Woods said. “That does not mean I wouldn’t want to captain a team in the future. If and when I feel it is the right time, I will put my hat in the ring for this committee to decide."

10. Bradley represents a break with the past. If there's anything we've learned over the last two years in golf — well, besides the fact that everybody is greedy as hell — it's that the old ways aren't necessarily the best ways. Tradition only works when it doesn't handcuff you to history. The old way of doing business at the Ryder Cup simply wasn't working for the United States; the team didn't learn from its victories, and didn't work to contain its defeats. Bradley may or may not be any better, but at least he'll bring a different perspective, and sometimes that's enough to at least start down the path of a different course.

"The Ryder Cup is so important to the game of golf but also to us players, especially if you've played in it and you realize the importance of what goes on that week," Bradley said. "It changes your perspective on what's important in the game and it changes the way you are as a player because you need to be in those rooms after you play in one. And losing Ryder Cups is really, really tough."

11. Bradley might be a playing captain. Once upon a time, the Ryder Cup featured playing captains, just like baseball had player-managers. No captain from either side has played in the event since Arnold Palmer in 1963, but that doesn't mean it can't be done. Bradley is still in the heart of his career, ranked 19th in the world. Suppose he qualifies his way in? Even better from a storyline perspective, suppose he's good enough to be one of the captain's picks? Bradley picking himself over Thomas or Fowler would nail the turnaround narrative. In all likelihood, given the intense responsibilities of an impending captain, this will be a moot question, since Bradley's game won't be as sharp as it could be. But it's a fun what-if.

"I'm not going to pick myself," Bradley said. "I want to make the team on points. Otherwise I'm going to be the captain."

12. Why 12? Easy. At Marco Simone in Rome last fall, the United States thoroughly embarrassed itself. Players allegedly asking to be paid, players pursuing their own agendas, players looking like they were headed for a roadside colonoscopy … everything about the American team in Rome looked unprepared and overmatched. In that Ryder Cup, the U.S. only managed 11 ½ points. So anything better than that counts as a success.

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