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(Photo: keeganbradley.com)

There’s more on the line for U.S. golfers in the next two PGA Tour events than wins and losses. The outcomes of this week’s Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship, which follows immediately, will determine which eight golfers get to represent their country at next month’s Ryder Cup, and Keegan Bradley, for one, was keenly aware of what was at stake.

Entering the week one spot out of the scrum at No. 9 in the standings, Bradley avidly wanted to make the team, in part as consolation for being left off last year’s Presidents Cup squad, despite his two wins that included a major. As the last tournament in which golfers can play their way to Medinah Country Club, the PGA Championship offers double the points to top performers. Bradley’s primary competition heading into the Bridgestone was Hunter Mahan, who began the week 653,522 points and one slot ahead of next week’s defending champ.

“I really want this pretty bad, and that can be a negative,” Bradley told reporters Monday during a teleconference to promote the 10th annual Deutsche Bank Championship, which will start later this month at TPC Boston. “I know that if I have a decent last end of the year, I’ll be on that team….but this U.S. teams is one of the strongest is recent history I would say, with all major winners coming from America, except the British Open. It’s a very hard team to qualify for because of all of the great play by Americans.”

Bradley was right on target about the strength of the U.S. unit, which boasts six guys with multiple wins this season (Tiger Woods, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson), or major victories with their double points (Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson). Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson round out the top eight, while traditional contestants Dustin Johnson, Steve Stricker, and Jim Furyk have work to do.

Bradley, by the way, made a strong statement with his opening-round 3-under 67 at Firestone. With Tiger Woods and the afternoon wave just getting started, Bradley was one of several players tied for fifth, one shot back of early clubhouse leaders Watson, Luke Donald, and Ben Crane.

 

Emily Kay is a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly. You may follow Kay on Twitter @golfexaminer

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