HARTFORD, Conn – Travelers Championship winner Keegan Bradley has always been a straightshooter, and that trait continued when discussing not being among Zach Johnson’s six captain’s picks for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Last October after capturing his fifth PGA Tour title in the Zozo Championship in Japan, the Vermont native wept and started voicing his desire about wanting to represent his country for the third time in the 2023 Ryder Cup Matches in Rome, Italy Sept. 29 – Oct. 1.
“I really put a lot of work in this offseason,” he said in his post-round interview. “You know, this is what I want to do. I want to win tournaments. I want to play in Ryder Cups. I want to be in the conversation — and this is a good start.”
After winning the “designated” Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell in June before thousands of rabid New England fans, his thoughts about the Ryder Cup vaulted even higher.
“I mean, it’s the first thing I said to my wife walking up to sign my card: This is a pretty big step towards doing that,” he said. “I’m 37 years old. I’ve still got a lot to show the captain. I would love to go to Rome and be a part of that team.”
Then before the BMW Championship, the next-to-last event before the U.S. team was finalized two weeks ago, Bradley proclaimed, “I think about the Ryder Cup every second I’m awake, basically. My biggest thing right now is trying not to think about it while I’m playing because it’s that important to me.”
Bradley’s two PGA Tour victories and a tie for ninth in the Tour Championship helped him reach No. 11 on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, but ultimately, his consistent play coupled with enthusiastic words about the biennial event that he played in in 2012 and 2014 weren’t enough to get the nod from US captain Zack Johnson. When Bradley got the phone call from the U.S. captain, his heart immediately sunk upon hearing Johnson’s tone.
“I could tell by the response from Zach when I answered the phone that I wasn’t on the team … I’m super bummed out,” Bradley told Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis.
As if that wasn’t touching enough, Bradley posted a message on his Instagram account that read: “This is my suitcase from the 2012 Ryder Cup that I haven’t opened since that Sunday. I promised myself I wouldn’t open it till I won a Ryder Cup. I’m proud of the effort I put in to make this amazing team over a decade later. But it wasn’t meant to be. All of the support has been amazing, but it’s time now to get behind the U.S. team. I’m gonna be watching and pulling as hard as I can for them! GOUSA.”
In both of Bradley’s appearances in the Ryder Cup, the U.S. team lost to the Europeans. Bradley was part of the infamous “Miracle at Medinah” in 2012, when the Europeans staged a historic comeback, rallying from a 10-6 deficit entering the singles matches. Still, he was a fiery centerpiece while going 6-5-1 in his two Ryder Cup starts and on a victorious Presidents Cup team in 2013.
For this year’s Ryder Cup team, Johnson made it clear that compatibility and team chemistry motivated much of his decision-making. Fred Couples, one of Johnson’s assistant captains, said that not being part of the “in crowd” with the younger players on the team might have factored into his omission.
“There’s no ‘outside,’ ” Couples said. “I saw Keegan Bradley’s statement. I left him off the team (as 2011 Presidents Cup captain) when he won a PGA (Championship). It’s the harshest thing you can do to a guy. … I feel like it’s the players’ team, but you can’t have guys telling the captain ‘here’s who I want, should be on it’ unless you’re a Jordan Spieth or a Scottie Scheffler or a Patrick Cantlay.’ ”
Couples also suggested the captain’s picks were made with pairings in mind.
“Now they’re picking other guys that may not have the record of Keegan, but they pair them up perfectly,” Couples said. “I like Keegan. He’s an older guy, and he’s not in tight with them. If that had 20 percent to do with it, I won’t argue that.”
All the “excuses” made it even tougher to swallow for someone who has always been engaging.
“I’ve always been an outsider in the sport, but I have tried to get close to the guys I thought would be on the team,” Bradley said. “I feel like moving forward I’m going to have to automatically qualify for the Ryder Cup.”
That fittingly would be in September 2025, when the Ryder Cup will be played at Bethpage Black on Long Island.
Former Bridgeport resident Cameron Young, the 2022 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year who has finished runner-up in five major championships and was ninth in the final Ryder Cup standings, was arguably the biggest snub. Others considered strong possibilities but not selected were Lucas Glover and Tony Finau.
Johnson filled out his 12-man team with 2017 Travelers Championship winner Jordan Spieth (No. 8 in final points standings), LIV Golf member and PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka (No. 7), No. 10 Collin Morikawa, No. 12 Sam Burns, No. 13 Rickie Fowler and No. 15 Justin Thomas, who missed the cut in three major championship and has only one top-five finish this year but has been a mainstay on past Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams.
Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark, Open Championship winner Brian Harman, 2022 Travelers Championship titlist Xander Schauffele and Max Homa all qualified via a year-plus-long points system that ended Aug. 20 following the BMW Championship.
The 2023 Ryder Cup Matches are Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome, Italy.
On the web: Rydercup.com