5 lingering questions about Keegan Bradley, Tiger Woods and the U.S. Ryder Cup captain selection


Mike Ehrmann

That Tiger Woods would be the name revealed when the PGA of America announced its delayed pick for the job of 2025 U.S. Ryder Cup captain was always an iffy proposition, circumstances rather than desire being the chief hangup. That Keegan Bradley stands in his place? Well, there are surprises, and then there’s picking the youngest captain in more than 60 years, a passionate Ryder Cup advocate, but one who hasn’t been inside the ropes at a Ryder Cup in a decade.

As the shock of Bradley’s appointment wanes and the choice settles in, we asked three of our own passionate Ryder Cup watchers, John Huggan, Dave Shedloski and Luke Kerr-Dineen, to answer five lingering questions about the selection: What it means for Bradley, Woods, Team USA and golf fans already counting the days until September 2025 and the opening shot of the Ryder Cup at Bethpage Black.

Just how surprised were you with Keegan Bradley being named captain?

In conversation with a friend last night, I asked him to guess the identity of the next American Ryder Cup captain. He gave up after 10 unsuccessful attempts, which speaks to the emergence of Bradley from somewhere north of the moon. No one was talking about him before Tiger opted out. No one was talking about him after Tiger opted out. This is a shocking appointment, one that has echoes of a time when the American skipper had to be a past PGA champion. To be honest, that he won that event in 2011 appears to be Bradley’s only obvious “qualification” for the role. —John Huggan

Very surprised. He wasn't on the radar. Or sonar. Or on radio waves from deep space. Youngest U.S. captain since Arnie in 1963, and he would have been the oldest player on the last Ryder Cup team if Zach Johnson had selected him. All of the sudden, I have to think Jim Furyk is inviting him to help out at the Presidents Cup in Montreal just to let him get his feet wet. —Dave Shedloski

A 10-out-of-10 would've been the U.S. team naming Patrick Reed the next captain. Tiger Woods getting the nod as expected would've been a 0. That probably makes Bradley's selection a solid 7. Initially, yes, the news was surprising. But after about five minutes it started making sense, especially considering the U.S. team's propensity for veering wildly into new directions after losses. The U.S. buddy system in place had gone stale and needed breaking. What better way to do it than with a Ryder Cup-loving outsider who went to college (St. John’s) just down the road from Bethpage Black. —Luke Kerr-Dineen

What do you like most and least about his selection?

Reaction on social media says I should like his fire and passion. So I guess I like his fire and passion, but not as a rah-rah kind of guy. I like it for the pure dedication he is going to bring to the process of getting the team ready. What I like least is the fact that the PGA of America took a flyer on Tom Watson in 2014, and look how that turned out. This is a bigger one. But at least Keegan is contemporaries with his players, so there should be no communication gap. —DS

The most? That it's a fun, feel-good story. Bethpage was Bradley's home course in college. Now he's captaining the U.S. Ryder Cup team there. The least? Probably the ongoing awkwardness in the fact that multiple major champions and former U.S. Ryder Cuppers like Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson, along with their LIV-going European counterparts, seem totally out of the running for the captaincies they deserve. —LKD

You have to like Bradley’s obvious passion for the Ryder Cup. In his two appearances as a player, the Vermont-native has celebrated fairways found, greens hit and putts made almost like no other. “Bug-eyed” is the description that comes to mind. Bringing that level of intensity will do him no harm in his captaincy. Then again, that approach to golf and the Ryder Cup is not something shared by everyone. Can’t imagine the likes of Tony Finau or Rickie Fowler reacting positively to Bradley’s patented ferocity. So the new skipper will have to learn how to temper his approach to the different personalities under his charge. —JH


2012 Getty Images

Tiger Woods appears to have passed on the job. Missed opportunity or blessing in disguise for the PGA of America?

Tiger has the job whenever he wants it. I don't think it makes much of a difference to the PGA of America, either good or bad. Maybe he'll do it in Ireland in 2027, or at Hazeltine after that. Tiger Woods or not, a Bethpage Ryder Cup is going to be epic—and maybe a little messy. —LKD

Tiger is a different cat as we all know. But just like everyone else he is unlikely to be 100 percent effective in a job he is even a little bit reluctant to take on. If you’re not fully on board, you have no business getting involved in something like the Ryder Cup. That’s a recipe for coming second in a two-way battle. So yes, if he harbors any doubts at all, Tiger saying “no” is the right thing for him, the right thing for the American team and the right thing for the beleaguered (at least in Ryder Cup terms) PGA of America. —JH

I tend to think of it as a good thing for all parties. But let's concentrate on Tiger here. He had nothing to gain by taking the captaincy at Bethpage. If the U.S. wins, so what? In this age of strong home-course advantage, the U.S. is supposed to win. But if the U.S. losesand don't think that can't happenthen where does he go from there? Where does the PGA of America go from there? No, so much better if he is the hero in 2027 who finally leads the U.S. to its first win in Europe since 1993. Nice career walk-off. —DS

How far behind do you think Bradley really is being named only 14 months ahead of the competition?

Surely provoked by Tiger’s prevarications, the timing of this appointment is clearly a nonsense. The Europeans wasted no time in re-appointing Luke Donald, who did such a great job last time round. In Italy, Donald was surrounded by a group of assistant captains who covered a broad spectrum of talents. They all made sense, and they all had been given time to grow into their varying roles. Everything worked perfectly because the assistants knew exactly why they were in place and what they were there to do. With only 14 months to go, Bradley is just barely visible in Donald’s rearview mirror in so many ways. By any measure Bradley is at a huge disadvantage. —JH

Well, he's been to Bethpage for the 2019 PGA Championship, so that helps. He has John Wood as the new Chief of Most of The Little Things. But he has played in only two Ryder Cups and has never been involved from the captaincy and organizational end. Thin résumé. Yeah, he's behind. He's going to need good help. A lot of it. —DS

He's probably pretty behind, largely because the U.S. needs a few tablespoons of reinvention after its Roman debacle. But strangely, I don't think it actually matters much to Keegan. He'll go all in, and maybe even forge a new model for the U.S. team along the way. —LKD


European captain Luke Donald hopes to bring some of the magic his team showed in its dominant Ryder Cup win in Rome to Bethpage in 2025.

Richard Heathcote

At the risk of being wrong come September 2025, does this turn out to be a good pick or a bad one?

Bradley as Ryder Cup captain clearly has the potential for disaster. At first (and second and third) glance, his appointment looks like little more than a panic measure. Let’s face it, with Tiger declining to lead and Phil Mickelson’s long-ago departure to LIV, there wasn’t an obvious name in the frame. But Bradley does have the advantage of playing at home in front of New York fans who will do more than any other group of spectators ever has to distract the opposition. 2025 will almost certainly be the ugliest Ryder Cup in history, an aspect of the proceedings that will distract from any of the many shortcomings the American skipper may own. A small consolation indeed. —JH

I've had a bad feeling about this Ryder Cup for the Americans since the European payback in Rome. A lot of things can happen between now and when the teams are finalized to change my mind. That's not to say I think Europe will win. It's going to be a tough crowd, which actually could cut both ways. My thinking is that the 2025 Ryder Cup could well be the closest since 2012, which Europe won in the so-called "Miracle at Medinah." I believe anyone other than Tiger was going to be a bad pick. But he left the PGA no choice. —DS

It'll be a good one. Keegan, if nothing else, will care. There's a pretty high downside to captaining at Bethpage—a place where the U.S. team is undoubtedly expected to win—but Keegan, if nothing else, will light a fire. —LKD