Behind 2 firm words, Keegan Bradley reveals LIV Golf-Ryder Cup feelings

Keegan Bradley

Keegan Bradley hits a tee shot last month at the Travelers Championship.

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Keegan Bradley says he wants the best players. 

Then he said those last two words again. 

And again. 

As Bradley spoke on Tuesday at a press conference to introduce him as the U.S. captain for next year’s Ryder Cup at Bethpage Black, he was establishing his feelings toward how he would approach LIV Golf. Would he pick players from the three-season-old, Saudi-backed league that has fought with the PGA Tour? Last year, ahead of the biennial event, his predecessor had. Would Bradley go to LIV events to scout? Last year, his predecessor seemingly hadn’t.  

Bradley said he would, though, and he said he wouldn’t shy from LIV selections. Three times in response to a question on how he would handle LIV players, he noted a qualification for his team’s makeup. 

Best players. 

“I’m going to have the 12 best players on the team,” Bradley said. “I don’t care what, where they play. So we’re, we have a mission to win this tournament. I’m not worried about the LIV stuff. 

“I want the best players on the team. 

“By the time we get to Bethpage in 2025, we have no clue how the layout of the golf world’s going to be. As it comes to going to LIV events, if there’s guys that are on the fringe, I’m willing to do that. Again, I’ve only been the captain for two weeks and we haven’t really even gotten the real points started, which start next year. So I’ll have to wait and see how everything shakes out, and my biggest concern is having the best players on the team.”

Notably, since LIV’s creation, there’s been just one other Ryder Cup where this has been also addressed, and there’s been only one other U.S. captain who’s had to address LIV: last year, when Zach Johnson did so. In the end, he did pick LIV pro Brooks Koepka among his six captain’s picks for the 12-player team that went on to lose to the European side in Italy, and last July, Johnson described his LIV protocol this way: 

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“When it comes to the Ryder Cup, our system, if you will, was already intact arguably last year even when we decided as a Ryder Cup committee as to how we wanted to navigate the landscape.

“My point in saying that is that what’s transpiring in professional golf from a competitive level, competition level, is PGA Tour; right? It’s not PGA of America [which runs the U.S. Ryder Cup team]. So the individuals that are Americans that play on other tours that are not the PGA Tour, they could play, I mean, technically the Latin Tour or the Asian Tour or wherever. More times than not they’re going to be members of the PGA of America for a number of reasons. Our liability insurance is number one and some other benefits.

“These guys that left the PGA Tour that had status and left to play on that other tour, the LIV Tour, they’re still members of the PGA of America, so they are still able to garner points. They’re able to play in the PGA Championship as a result because that’s what the PGA of America runs. Obviously, technically, can still be a part of Team USA.”

But would Johnson watch LIV pros at their tournaments? At the time, to determine six automatic picks to the team and to potentially help with the six captain’s selections, the U.S. used a ranking system that awarded points based on PGA Tour and major championship play — and the former was blocked to LIV players. Under this system, Koepka finished seventh in the standings, largely due to a win at the PGA Championship

There, in May, Johnson had this exchange, started by a reporter:

“Earlier in the week, you said you have not witnessed the LIV Golf, you haven’t been going out and watching it. Is that something you’ll change? We have seen at the Masters, we are seeing it here …”

“Are you expecting me,” Johnson said, “to go to LIV events and spectate?”

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“Yeah. As a captain, it seems logical if these guys …”

“I think the luxury of me being captain,” Johnson said, “I’m still relevant and prevalent out on the PGA Tour and that’s where my status holds. So for me to abandon that on a week where I could be out there and go where the bulk of my players are certainly going to come from there, I don’t know what time will tell, but the bulk are going to come from there would be irresponsible on my behalf and inappropriate if I were to leave what I am trying to do as a competitor and as a leader.”

“Would that stand as the whole season? Do you have no plans to go to any?”

“Hasn’t been discussed,” Johnson said. “I’m not one that’s ever to say never, but it’s not been discussed.”

Later in the interview, Johnson was asked about watching LIV broadcasts. 

Do you get the CW event to watch their broadcast or YouTube?

“CW?” Johnson asked. 

“That’s where it’s on television.”

“I didn’t know that,” Johnson said. “I do get to see it — I have to ask my kids. I think I get the CW.”

“The point is, you can still assess and analyze the players without going to watch them?”

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“Sure, that’s what I’m saying,” Johnson said. “I don’t need to be present. I’m not in the U.S. Open, and given my travel schedule and what I have behind that and in front of that, there’s no reason for me to go out there and spectate when I can watch television.”

On Tuesday, at Bradley’s press conference, one LIV player was specifically brought up.

Phil Mickelson. 

In the two Ryder Cups Bradley qualified for, he paired with Mickelson to go 4-1, including a 3-0 record at Medinah in 2012. Would the embattled 54-year-old then be a consideration for a vice-captain pick?

No, Bradley said. 

“I still have a great relationship with Phil. I don’t think he’s interested in being a vice-captain,” Bradley said. “And to be honest with you, he’s a captain some day, I think. But I haven’t spoken to Phil, I don’t want to speak for him at all, but I think he’s pretty busy with what he’s doing. 

“I have nothing but great things to say about Phil and our memories together, and what we did at the Ryder Cup is really my fondest memories of the game.”  

Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.

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