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3 reasons why Keegan Bradley’s Ryder Cup captaincy makes sense for Bethpage Black 2025

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Keegan Bradley, Ryder Cup
Keegan Bradley during the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Scotland. | Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

In a surprising twist, Keegan Bradley will lead the American Ryder Cup team at Bethpage Black in 2025. Here are 3 reasons why it makes sense.

Keegan Bradley will officially lead the American side at the Ryder Cup next year, as the PGA of America confirmed Bob Harig’s initial report on Monday afternoon with their own special announcement.

A Tuesday press conference featuring Bradley is scheduled for Noon ET in New York.

Bradley last competed in the biennial competition in 2014, posting a 1-2-0 overall record that week at Gleneagles in Scotland. The Europeans won that year 16.5-to-11.5, leaving Bradley on the losing end yet again. Two years before, at Medinah in Illinois, Bradley helped the U.S. win three matches but lost his Sunday Singles match to Rory McIlroy 2 & 1. The Europeans stormed back on that fateful Sunday, overcoming a 10-to-6 deficit to win by a point, which shocked the Americans and sent the red, white, and blue home in disbelief.

Then, last year, Bradley finished 11th in the final Ryder Cup standings, finalized at the end of the Tour Championship. Bradley even made it to East Lake, a tournament that invites only the top 30 players in the FedEx Cup rankings. He had a terrific 2023 campaign, winning the ZOZO Championship and his hometown event, the Travelers Championship, in Connecticut. But U.S. Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson overlooked Bradley, opting to select the likes of Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, and Sam Burns instead.

Golf fans and pundits alike criticized Johnson’s decision to pass Bradley over, with the 2023 skipper coming under tremendous fire after Team USA’s poor performance in Rome. Netflix’s Full Swing series even captured the moment Johnson delivered the sour news to Bradley live on camera—a heartbreaking instance that left him and his wife, Jillian, at a loss for words.

Keegan Bradley, PGA Tour, Travelers Championship Photo by Mark Smith/Getty Images
Keegan Bradley at the 2024 Travelers Championship.

Bradley has sustained gut-punch after gut-punch as it relates to the Ryder Cup, but now the 2011 PGA Championship winner will look to write the ultimate redemption story for himself at Bethpage Black.

Nobody saw this decision coming, as Stewart Cink, Fred Couples, and Tiger Woods were all among the possible candidates. The PGA of America’s decision to select Bradley as the man to lead the Americans at the 45th Ryder Cup is an outside-the-box decision. Yet, here are three reasons why Bradley’s captaincy makes sense for Bethpage Black in 2025:

3. Different Direction, Younger Player

The PGA of America decided to go with Bradley, who will be 39 years old when the competition begins at Bethpage Black. Typically, Ryder Cup captains are on the back nine of their careers, with Johnson last year and Steve Stricker two years prior fitting that mold. Jim Furyk, at 48, led the Americans in Paris in 2018.

That trend has continued over the past decade. Fifty-two-year-old Davis Love III captained Team USA in 2016, while 64-year-old Tom Watson, who also led the 1993 Ryder Cup team—the last group of Americans to win the Ryder Cup on European soil—headed Team USA in Scotland at Gleneagles.

But the Americans wanted to change things this time around. They wanted to go with a younger player who could still contend in major championships—the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) lists Bradley as the 19th-ranked player in the world. They also wanted a player with fire. Bradley has both of those attributes.

Plus, Bradley

2. Bethpage Black Familiarity

Steve DiMeglio penned a wonderful story ahead of the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in 2019, in which he detailed a big part of Bradley’s connection to the famed Long Island course.

Bradley, who attended nearby St. John’s University in Queens, about 25 miles east of Bethpage State Park, would play the Black Course with his Red Storm teammates on Mondays when the course is closed for maintenance. But they had a ‘wink-wink’ agreement with the Superintendent, who would allow the St. John’s golf team to play in an 8-or-9 person group together. But they could not play the entire course. They would only play holes 3 through 14, the stretch that lies across Round Swamp Road and is not visible from the clubhouse. The par-4 1st—a bending dogleg right—and holes 15 through 18 sit on the other side of the road, which the Pro Shop can easily see from its pedestal atop the hill. The second tee across the way is also somewhat visible, meaning Bradley’s Johnnies began their Bethpage rounds on the par-3 3rd, located right next to the maintenance barn. They did not want to upset security or the Pro Shop, so they abided by these rules under the Superintendent’s ‘supervision.’

Bethpage Black, Ryder Cup Photo by Gary Kellner/PGA of America via Getty Images
The 18th hole at Bethpage Black.

“It’s my favorite course in the world, and I have a lot of really great memories,” Bradley told DiMeglio in 2019.

“I’ve played the course hundreds of times. I don’t think it gives me an advantage. In majors, you don’t know what the setup will be. I go in there with ease, knowing I don’t have to kill myself to learn the course.”

You have to assume that Bradley’s course knowledge of Bethpage Black will serve as an advantage this time around. After all, the home captain has the authority to determine the course setup for Ryder Cups. His detailed understanding of the course and familiarity with the property can only help Team USA in 2025.

1. Passion & Redemption

I’m not sure anyone in golf loves the Ryder Cup more than Bradley. He is obsessed with this competition, never stops thinking about it, and bleeds red, white, and blue, evoking the principles of what you want in a captain.

“I think about the Ryder Cup every second I’m awake,” Bradley said in August 2023, a mere weeks before Johnson passed him over for the team.

After Bradley’s snub became public knowledge, he posted a tweet about how he has refused to open his Ryder Cup bag from the 2012 competition. He noted that he would only un-earth its contents after he competed on a winning team.

Now Bradley has a chance to lead the Americans and unzip that bag.

But the PGA of America chose passion over politics, fire over friendliness, and a decade-long vengeance that has built up inside Bradley. He does not have the resume of some of his peers, such as Jordan Spieth or Justin Thomas, but he does have an internal vigor and a willingness to stand up for himself and his team. Just ask Miguel Ángel Jiménez.

That’s who you want in a Ryder Cup captain, even though Bradley will be the youngest man to lead an American side since Arnold Palmer did so at the age of 34 in 1963. Palmer was a playing captain that year at East Lake Golf Club. But coincidentally, at the time, the course was known as the Atlanta Athletic Club, which, in its current iteration, up in Johns Creek, Georgia, is where Bradley won his lone major championship in 2011.

Perhaps Bradley can follow in Palmer’s footsteps by playing well enough to earn a spot on the 2025 team, too. It’s not the likeliest of scenarios, but did anyone see the PGA of America selecting Bradley to captain the 2025 team? Anything can happen, especially golf.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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