Henrik Stenson joins Saudi tour, removed as Ryder Cup captain
The Ryder Cup captaincy of Henrik Stenson lasted all of four months.
Ryder Cup Europe removed Stenson as captain for the 2023 matches — still 14 months away from being played in Italy — when the Swede decided to choose the guaranteed money of the Saudi-funded rival league over the Ryder Cup.
The European tour and PGA Tour have suspended players who signed up for LIV Golf, which is handing out massive signing bonuses to go along with its $25 million prize fund in eight tournaments that feature 54 holes and no cut.
The third LIV Golf event is next week at Trump National in New Jersey. Sky Sports was among the first to report Stenson is leaving the European tour for the rival league, a move he confirmed on Wednesday.
That meant giving up a captaincy that he accepted four months ago when he said, “I’m fully committed to my role as a captain and working hard toward the result we want in Rome.”
The European tour did not mention LIV Golf in its short statement earlier Wednesday after meeting with the Swedish star, only that Stenson’s captaincy “has been brought to an end with immediate effect.”
“In light of decisions made by Henrik in relation to his personal circumstances, it has become clear that he will not be able to fulfil certain contractual obligations to Ryder Cup Europe that he had committed to prior to his announcement as captain,” the statement said.
Stenson announced on his Twitter account that he plans to play at the LIV Golf event next week. He said he had made arrangements with LIV Golf to fulfill his Ryder Cup captaincy and was “hugely disappointed” at being removed.
“While I disagree with this decision, for now it is a decision that I accept,” he wrote.
Stenson is No. 171 in the world and has gone five years since winning a tournament against more than 20 players. He fits the profile of many players Greg Norman has signed up for his LIV Golf series — major champions whose best days are behind them.
In addition to Stenson, LIV Golf announced that world No. 36 Jason Kokrak and Charles Howell III, both three-time winners on the PGA Tour, would play the event in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Stenson missed the cut last week in the British Open, while Kokrak finished tied for 42nd. Stenson played a practice round on the Sunday going into the Open with Phil Mickelson, regarded as one of the chief recruiters for Greg Norman and his LIV Golf.
The Daily Telegraph reported Stenson was in line for roughly a $50 million signing bonus. Most contracts are believed to be in the three- to four-year range.
Already disrupting the main tours in golf, the latest move is having a big impact on the Ryder Cup, one of the more celebrated events in golf every two years. European players who already have joined include Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell, though none was likely to be making the next team given their current form or age.
“I sincerely hope a resolution between the tours and its members is reached soon and that the Ryder Cup can act as a mechanism for repair amongst various golfing bodies and their members,” Stenson said in his statement.
The Americans are coming off a record rout at Whistling Straits last year. The Ryder Cup next goes to Marco Simone outside Rome in September 2023.
Luke Donald also was considered for European captain when the job was given to Stenson. Robert Karlsson was another option and it would be surprising if Europe went back to Thomas Bjorn, the winning captain in France in 2018 and Europe’s strongest voice.
Stenson was thought to be the ideal candidate for the Saudi-funded league late last year but had to weigh cash against his legacy as a Ryder Cup captain. He first chose one, then the other.