Henrik Stenson's first LIV Golf press conference took so many strange twists and turns it's hard to know what is real any more, writes Alex Perry
Do you remember Euro ’96? That was good, wasn’t it? During that tournament, the England players had an ongoing wager to slip as many song titles as they could into television interviews. Who can forget Gareth Southgate comparing the team’s training camp to Club Tropicana? Or Alan Shearer’s claims that players were “keeping their feet on the ground and not dancing on the ceiling”?
Golfers seem to be playing a similar game at the moment. Except instead of the European Championship, it’s LIV Golf. And instead of song titles, it’s pseudo nonsense.
Henrik Stenson, come on down.
The recently-removed Ryder Cup captain faced his first press conference since he joined Greg Norman’s revolution ahead of the third event at Bedminster – and, I think it’s safe to say, it went almost exactly as you would expect.
First, he went into in depth detail about the benefits of joining the Saudi Arabia-funded series.
“Well, I think one of the big benefits that we talk about here is just like yesterday, practice round, the four of us played together. It gives just a different dynamic, really, and team aspect is obviously a big part of that.”
You get to play practice rounds on the LIV tour? Please tell us more…
“You are playing individually. I mean, it’s individual golf tournaments, but it’s also, yeah, that kind of fight to try and perform for the team, and you can be out there on the last day, we’ve seen that already happen, that players might not have the best week individually, but you can make a huge difference for the team if you go out on the final day and shoot a good number, and that could really help out a team. So it’s always something to play for in that sense. Yeah, it just feels good to be part of that environment.”
A lot of words with not a lot of substance. It’s like asking Jacob Rees-Mogg about the benefits of Brexit.
Do you know what else offers a team environment – with practice rounds and everything? The Ryder Cup – the captaincy of which Stenson gave up for a quick payday.
“I don’t feel like I gave it up,” he said.
“I made every arrangement possible here to be able to fulfil my captain’s duties.”
Did you try, perhaps, not joining LIV?
Stenson continued: “I’ve had great help here from LIV to be able to do that. And still, the decision was made that I was to be removed. I’m obviously disappointed over the situation. But it is what it is, and yeah, we move on from there now.”
It was literally written into your contract, Henrik. It couldn’t have possibly come as a surprise.
In an attempt to recover the interview, one journalist – which I presume (and hope) was LIV Golf editor and chief cheerleader Mike McAllister under strict instructions to move conversation away from the Ryder Cup and money – decided this was the way to go: “You have won Swedish golfer of the year five times. Because of that, do you think you could help get IKEA as a sponsor for LIV, and could you give me some free furniture?”
“I’ll give you as much furniture as you need if you put it together,” Stenson quipped.
Whatever this ride is, I’m not sure I want to be on it any more.
As a somewhat humorous aside, LIV Golf’s press release announcing Stenson’s arrival revealed that he would be joining the Majesticks team, alongside “fellow Englishman Lee Westwood”. Oops.
Call me, maybe?
Henrik Stenson isn’t the only player in an open relationship with the truth.
Two recent sign-ups, Paul Casey and Charles Howell III, told reporters they got involved because Bryson DeChambeau called them up and convinced them to join. Another, Jason Kokrak, said the same of Brooks Koepka.
Now, can you really imagine Koepka doing that? In all seriousness? It’s such a strange thing to say. Especially when Kokrak had already said months ago he was going to join LIV – not to mention the fact he’s a Golf Saudi ambassador. Are we really supposed to believe he said no to a multimillion dollar signing-on fee but changed his mind because Koepka called him up and told him they get to play practice rounds?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. When are these guys going to stop taking us fans for mugs? No one cares that you signed up to LIV for the money. We’ll still make the decision about whether or not we choose to watch, and reserve the right to criticise – or indeed, defend – you.
Just admit you saw dollar signs, stop slating the organisations that put you in a position to be able to make this choice, and lay off the Kool Aid.