Why Rory McIlroy is casting severe doubt on Keegan Bradley’s hopes of playing Ryder Cup captaincy

Defending Genesis Scottish Open champion speaks out after strong start in East Lothian

Rory McIlroy has cast doubt on Keegan Bradley being a playing Ryder Cup captain, revealing he’d ruled out that possibility himself for a future match.

Newly-appointed US captain Bradley said he hopes to play in next year’s edition at Bethpage Black after being handed the reins when Tiger Woods turned down the job.

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At 39 at the time it takes place, Bradley will be the youngest Ryder Cup captain since 34-year-old Arnold Palmer filled it in a playing capacity in 1963.

Rory McIlroy tees off on the 16th hole during day one of the Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian. Picture: Luke Walker/Getty Images.Rory McIlroy tees off on the 16th hole during day one of the Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian. Picture: Luke Walker/Getty Images.
Rory McIlroy tees off on the 16th hole during day one of the Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian. Picture: Luke Walker/Getty Images.

Six-time PGA Tour winner Bradley narrowly missed out on one of Zach Johnson’s picks for last year’s event in Rome and currently sits 19th in the Official World Golf Ranking.

But, having weighed up a potential playing captaincy for the 2027 encounter at Adare Manor in Ireland, McIlroy is adamant that Bradley can’t do both things when the US bid to win back the trophy in New York.

“No, absolutely not,” he declared, speaking after launching his defence of the Genesis Scottish Open title with a five-under-par 65 at The Renaissance Club in his first outing since suffering heartbreak in last month’s US Open.

“I’ve contemplated it for Adare and no, there’s too much work that goes into it. I’ve seen what Luke [Donald] went through preparing for Rome – there’s no way you can be as good a captain as you need to be and be a playing captain as well.”

Though he turned down the post on this occasion, there’s still a strong possibility that Woods will lead the US into battle at Adare Manor on the strength of his friendship with the resort’s owner, JP McManus. But, even if that happened, he won’t have McIlroy as his opposite number.

“No, it's been mentioned and I've just said no way because it depends what do you want?” he added. “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.

“Keegan is the 19th-ranked player in the world, so he's got a great chance of making the team and then if he does, I think he's just going to have to give that captaincy role to one of his vice captains.”

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McIlroy, who was pleased with an opening salvo in East Lothian that contained a chip-in eagle and five birdies, was told of Bradley’s appointment on Sunday night at a dinner in London. “I think disbelief, probably,” he replied to being asked what the reaction had been in the room. I think Keegan was probably in disbelief, at some point, too, but certainly an interesting pick.

“But he knows Bethpage very well. He went to university in the area. He's obviously very passionate about the Ryder Cup. Yeah, I mean, it's certainly a departure from what the US have done over the last few years, and you know, time will tell if that's a good thing or not.

“It seems quite reactionary in terms of what happened in Rome, but I don't know. It's an unbelievable opportunity for Keegan and 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 even Paul McGinley being a strategic adviser for Bethpage as well. Just to have those familiar faces in the room has always been a good thing for us.”

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