LIV Golf have got their man as Henrik Stenson leaves his role as the Ryder Cup captain. And, writes Alex Perry, we can put to bed the breakaway tour's 'grow the game' notion
Greg Norman has taken his biggest scalp yet by luring Henrik Stenson to the LIV Golf ranks.
Ryder Cup Europe released a statement on Wednesday confirming the Swede’s short tenure as captain had ended with immediate effect.
It simply read: “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 on March 15, 2022, and it is therefore not possible for him to continue in the role of captain.”
The 2016 Open champion may not be as big a draw in world golf as Bryson DeChambeau or Dustin Johnson, but taking the current Ryder Cup captain from the DP World Tour will create seismic rumbles in the game.
Stenson, along with Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Graeme McDowell, has long been linked with a move to the Saudi Arabia-backed series. But while those recent stars of Team Europe made the jump, Stenson backed out – reportedly after being led to believe that Phil Mickelson’s now infamous interview had killed LIV Golf’s chances of getting off the ground.
Make no mistake, this is catastrophic for the Ryder Cup, the European Tour and PGA Tour – three bodies made Stenson the player he is today. It makes a mockery of one of the grandest competitions in our game, and all to put a few million dollars in the bank.
It’s safe to say we can cut out the “growing the game” nonsense spouted by the LIV Golf defectors now. This isn’t about getting Stenson the player, it’s about getting Stenson the Ryder Cup captain.
It’s a move made purely to disrupt and destabilise – and, despite all the harping otherwise, shows the true colours of LIV Golf and their glorious leader.
But we expect this from Norman. He’s always been like it. Stenson, though, should be ashamed of himself.
“It is a huge honour and I was humbled to get the call confirming the news,” he said at the time of his appointment. “I would like to thank the selection panel for believing in me and will say to them, and every European golf fan, that I will do everything in my power and leave no stone unturned in the quest to get the Ryder Cup back in European hands.
“The Ryder Cup is golf, and sport, at its very best. I got goosebumps every time I pulled on a European shirt as a player and that will be magnified in the role of captain. While it is great for me personally, it is also great for my country and all the players from Sweden who have played for Europe with such distinction since Joakim Haeggman became the first in 1993.
“When I started out as a professional golfer, it was beyond my wildest dreams that, one day, I would follow in the footsteps of legends of the game such as Seve and be the European Ryder Cup captain. But today proves that, sometimes, dreams do come true.”
Hard to think those words were just 128 days ago.
This was Stenson’s legacy. He might not have been a genuine great, but he was an Open champion who won the Claret Jug in the most thrilling of showdowns, the best Scandinavian golfer of all time who is not called Annika, and was preparing to add to his already impressive Ryder Cup CV.
Now he’ll be remembered as the first man to give up the most prestigious job in golf – and all to swell his bank balance in the name of not only another man’s bitter revenge, but sportswashing.
Of course there was a follow up from the man himself. It’s long, so here are the highlights: I’ve always been interested in LIV as a concept; I thought I could join LIV and be Ryder Cup captain; Format, schedule, growing the game; Look at all the good stuff I do.
It’s like they’re copying each other’s homework.
As he is only interested in the format, schedule, and growing the game, I’m sure he’ll be donating his reported $40 million signing-on fee to his various charities.
Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Henrik…
So what does Stenson’s move mean for the DP World Tour and European Ryder Cup team – other than the embarrassment of losing their captain for the 2023 matches in Rome?
The statement confirmed that “a new 2023 European Ryder Cup captain will be made in due course” but that Ryder Cup Europe “will be making no further comment on any aspect of the process until that time”.
The obvious solution will be to hand the reins to Luke Donald – who was widely considered the man who missed out to Stenson – but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Greg Norman waves a load of cash under the Englishman’s nose.
Other players in the running for the job were the victorious 2018 captain, Thomas Bjorn, and Robert Karlsson, one of Bjorn’s assistants in Paris. Perhaps one of those provides the safer bet.