Rory: Bradley 'interesting pick' as U.S. captain

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NORTH BERWICK, Scotland — Rory McIlroy was having dinner with European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald in London on Sunday night when Donald told him that the U.S. team had selected Keegan Bradley as its new captain.

“Yeah, definitely I think a surprise for everyone,” McIlroy said Thursday, after posting a 5-under 65 in the opening round of the Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club. “I mean, it’s certainly a departure from what the U.S. have done over the last few years, and, you know, time will tell if that’s a good thing or not.”

When McIlroy was asked to describe the reaction at the table on Sunday, he said: “I think disbelief, probably. I think Keegan was probably in disbelief, at some point, too, but certainly an interesting pick.”

Bradley, 38, has never been a vice captain in the Ryder Cup. He competed in the international event as a player twice, most recently in 2014. The Vermont native attended St. John’s University in New York, and he practiced and played matches at Bethpage Black Course on Long Island, the site of the next Ryder Cup matches on Sept. 26-28, 2025.

“It’s an interesting appointment,” McIlroy said. “The youngest captain since Arnold Palmer I think was a playing captain as 34. But he knows Bethpage very well. He went to university in the area. He’s obviously very passionate about the Ryder Cup.”

McIlroy said the surprising decision seems “quite reactionary” as a result of the European team’s dominant 16½-11½ victory over the U.S. at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club outside Rome last October.

“It’s obviously an unbelievable opportunity for Keegan and just speaking from a European point of view, it’s really nice to have the continuity we’ve had over the years, with vice captains becoming captains, and then even [former captain] Paul McGinley becoming a strategic adviser to us for Bethpage next year as well,” McIlroy said. “Just to have those familiar faces in the room, I think it’s been a good thing for us.”

Bradley, who was left off the U.S. team last year in a controversial decision by then-captain Zach Johnson, is currently ranked No. 19 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Bradley said earlier this week that he hoped to make the 2025 team on points but vowed that he wouldn’t use a captain’s choice on himself if he didn’t automatically qualify for the team.

McIlroy, the No. 2 golfer in the world, said he considered the possibility of being a playing captain for the European team at the 2027 Ryder Cup at Adare Manor in Ireland. But the Northern Irishman said he doesn’t believe you can do both jobs well.

McIlroy suggested that Bradley would have to turn over the captain’s job to one of his vice captains if he decides to play at Bethpage Black.

“I’ve contemplated it for Adare and there’s too much work that goes into it,” McIlroy said. “I’ve seen what Luke went through preparing for Rome. There’s no way you can be as good a captain as you need to be and be playing as well. It’s been mentioned, and I’ve just said, ‘No way.’

“If you want to be the best captain you can be, you can’t play. And if you want to be the best player you can be, you can’t captain. It’s one or the other. Especially with how big the Ryder Cup has become and how many things you have to do in the lead-up to the event, the week of the event.”

On the course, McIlroy played well in his first competitive round since squandering a late lead in the final round of the U.S. Open on June 16. McIlroy missed two short putts on the final three holes at Pinehurst No. 2, helping Bryson DeChambeau win his second major championship by one stroke.

McIlroy was tied for third after Thursday’s early wave, one stroke behind clubhouse co-leaders Maximillian Kieffer of Germany and Haotong Li of China.

McIlroy’s group started on the back nine, and he made the turn at 1-under 34. Then he made a birdie on the first, chipped in for eagle from off the green on the par-5 third and made another birdie from 10 feet on the fourth.

McIlroy’s birdie putts on Nos. 5, 6 and 9 narrowly missed.

“My game has been feeling pretty good in practice over the last 10 or so days since I picked the clubs back up,” McIlroy said. “Obviously the last time I played, I played well. I didn’t get the result I wanted but I’ve still got a lot of confidence in my game. Yeah, I sort of picked up where I left off.”

It’s McIlroy’s final warmup before next week’s Open Championship at Royal Troon Golf Course in Troon, Scotland, the last major of the season, where he’ll try to end his nearly 10-year drought without a victory in the big four.

“[I’m] just familiarizing myself with links golf again,” McIlroy said. “First time I’ve played a links course since [the Open Championship] last year, I guess. Getting back into how the wind feels. How the club feels through the turf, all that stuff. So that’s why obviously I wanted to play this week. It’s a good reintroduction to links golf, but obviously with a great opportunity to win another opportunity as well.”

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