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Bradley gets closer to Cup dream with an opening 65

Reuters

NORTON Massachusetts (Reuters) - Ryder Cup selection is a top priority for Keegan Bradley and he gave his prospects of a late call-up a timely boost by charging into contention for the Deutsche Bank Championship on Friday.

Bradley, who has made no secret of his desire to be one of three wildcard picks by United States captain Tom Watson next week, fired a flawless six-under-par 65 at the TPC Boston to end the opening round two shots off the pace.

A three-time winner on the PGA Tour who clinched his first major title at the 2011 PGA Championship, the 28-year-old has set his sights on making the Ryder Cup team for a second time.

"I am dreaming about it," Bradley smiled as he spoke to Golf Channel after ending his round in style with a birdie-birdie finish. "When I wake up, I am thinking about it. When I'm on the course, I am thinking about it.

"I've just made the decision that it's going to come up and I'm not going to try to block it out. I'm just going to try and embrace it and be aware of those thoughts.

"The more I try not to think about it, the more it comes in. I am just embracing it and today felt good."

Watson will announce his three captain's picks in New York on Tuesday to complete his 12-man team to take on Ryder Cupkee holders Europe at Gleneagles in Scotland from Sept. 26-28.

SIX FRONT-RUNNERS

Bradley, Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Brendon Todd, Brandt Snedeker and Hunter Mahan are widely viewed as the front-runners vying for a spot.

"I go out and shoot good scores, I think I am in good shape," said Bradley, who was undefeated in Ryder Cup team play after being paired with Phil Mickelson at Medinah two years ago.

His only defeat came at the hands of Rory McIlroy in the singles on the final day, when Europe staged an improbable comeback to win the Cup outright.

"But there are so many great players that aren't on this team. I don't take anything for granted. I don't think I am a lock by any means."

The nine players confirmed as automatic U.S. Ryder Cup selections after the PGA Championship were Masters champion Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Jim Furyk, Jimmy Walker, Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Zach Johnson.

Jason Dufner is 10th in the U.S. Cup standings but is unlikely to be a captain's pick having not played competitive golf since withdrawing from the PGA Championship with two bulging discs in his neck.

The Americans are already without long-hitting Dustin Johnson, who has taken an indefinite leave of absence to deal with "personal challenges", and Tiger Woods, who ruled himself out of Ryder Cup consideration due to lingering back problems.

The most likely candidates for Watson's three wildcard picks are Moore (11th in the standings), Todd (12th), Bradley (13th), Simpson (15th), Snedeker (20th) and Mahan (25th).

Moore and Todd, who have current form on their side, would be Ryder Cup rookies while Bradley, Simpson and Snedeker would each be making their second appearances in the biennial team competition - if selected.

Simpson enhanced his Cup claims by firing a five-under 66 at the TPC Boston on Friday while Mahan could well have inked his spot for Gleneagles by clinching his sixth PGA Tour victory on Sunday at The Barclays, the opening FedExCup playoff event.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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