Golf’s civil war escalated this week after European Ryder Cup captain Henrik Stenson was sacked just 15 months before the next tournament in Rome. Stenson’s decision to join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series meant his brief stint as skipper was “terminated with immediate effect”.
In March, the Swede was named European captain for the 2023 Ryder Cup, which will be held at the Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome, Italy. But in statement Ryder Cup Europe confirmed on Wednesday that it had become clear that “he will not be able to fulfill certain contractual obligations” and therefore “it is not possible for him to continue in the role of captain”.
It is understood Stenson’s Ryder Cup contract contained a clause barring him from playing in the breakaway tournament, said The Irish Times. The search for a new captain is now underway. Possible contenders include 2018 winning captain Thomas Bjorn, Luke Donald, Paul Lowry, Robert Karlsson and 2023 vice-captain Edoardo Molinari.
Stenson “disagrees” with the decision
Stenson has confirmed he will fill one of the three remaining spots at next week’s LIV Invitational at the Donald Trump-owned Bedminster course in New Jersey. “His contract, offered by Saudi competition, is reported to be around £40m,” said Paul McInnes in Guardian.
The 2016 Open champion made a lengthy statement Twitter and said that while he disagreed with Ryder Cup Europe’s decision, “at the moment it’s the decision I’m making”. The 46-year-old added that it was “obviously” his decision to play in the LIV golf competitions was “commercially driven” but the format, schedule and caliber of player “were also important factors”.
Seismic rumbles in golf
Stenson’s dramatic U-turn after becoming the ‘latest capture by Saudi rebels’ has ‘sent shockwaves across the sport’ and is a ‘huge coup’ for Golf Series LIVsaid James Corrigan at Telegraph. He may have fallen to 171st in the world rankings and his best days are “clearly in the past”, but the move to the series under Greg Norman “shows that LIV has the ammunition to convince players to join even with seemingly the most inaccessible places”.
Stenson “may not be as big of a difference” in world golf as Bryson DeChambeau or Dustin Johnson, Alex Perry said on National Club golfer. But taking on the Ryder Cup captaincy from the DP World Tour will create a “seismic rumble” in the game. “Make no mistake, Stenson’s move away from LIV is about one thing: power.”
“The thirst for Saudi money”
The Ryder Cup The captaincy is considered perhaps “the most prestigious in the sport” and “certainly unpaid”, writes The Irish Times. Vice-captain to Padraig Harrington at Whistling Straits last year, Stenson “was tasked with bringing the trophy back” after Europe’s record 19-9 defeat by the USA in Wisconsin.
Even if there is no payment, the captains can earn “around £4m from gig endorsements”, Riat Al-Samarrai said in Daily Mail. “They are not starving, neither are their grandchildren. They earn enough to give up the necessity of their choice.”
Stenson’s “lust for Saudi money” has left the Ryder Cup “in shambles”, added Al-Samarrai. LIV “didn’t want” Stenson – they wanted the Ryder Cup captain as a means of “weakening one of the great institutions” of the sport they “emulate with vindictive guile”. What a “weird mess” it has turned into.