Henrik Stenson joins LIV Golf: 2023 Ryder Cup captaincy stripped after defection to Saudi-backed league

Another major championship winner has made the jump to the LIV Golf Invitational Series, and in doing so, has already suffered dire consequences. Ryder Cup Europe confirmed on Wednesday that Henrik Stenson has been removed as its captain for the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome. The 46-year-old is the latest European to change allegiances and join former Ryder Cup teammates Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey and Graeme McDowell with the PGA Tour and DP World Tour rivals.

“In light of decisions made by Henrik in relation to his personal circumstances, it has become clear that he will not be able to fulfill certain contractual obligations to Ryder Cup Europe that he had committed to prior to his announcement as captain on Tuesday, March 15 , 2022, and it is therefore not possible for him to continue in the role of captain,” Ryder Cup Europe said in a statement.

Stenson responded later in the day confirming his move to LIV and expressing his disappointment over Ryder Cup Europe’s decision to remove him as captain of the European squad in 2023.

“As many of you will have already seen, unfortunately my decision to play in LIV events has triggered Ryder Cup Europe to communicate that it is not possible for me to continue in my role as Ryder Cup captain,” Stenson wrote. “This is despite me making specific arrangements with LIV Golf, who have been supportive of my role as captain to ensure I could fulfill the obligations of the captaincy. While I disagree with this decision, for now it is a decision that I accept. I have huge respect and admiration for the Ryder Cup and those individuals behind it who I know are doing their utmost to act in the best interests of the historic event. I want to thank everyone I have worked with to date to prepare for Rome in 2023, I am hugely disappointed not to be allowed to continue in my role but I wish you all the best in your ongoing preparations.

“It is a shame to witness the significant uncertainty surrounding the Ryder Cup, who will be eligible to play etc. 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 among various golfing bodies and their members.”

All of this obviously goes against what Stenson said earlier this year when he was asked if there were any breakaway circuits on his agenda later in 2022. A lot can (and did) change in a short amount of time. Here’s what Stenson said in March just after receiving the captaincy.

“There’s been a lot of speculation back and forth, and as I said, I am fully committed to the captaincy and to Ryder Cup Europe and the job at hand,” said Stenson. “So we’re going to keep busy with that and I’m going to do everything in my power to deliver a winning team in Rome.”

He also said that the Ryder Cup for him has been the experience of a lifetime.

“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,” said Stenson. “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.”

Stenson added: “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.”

The 2016 Open champion has since added to the leadership room by confirming Thomas Bjorn and Edoardo Molinari as vice captains. With Stenson’s absence, Bjorn will likely become the next man up as the Dane led the European Ryder Cup Team to victory in 2018 at Le Golf National in Paris, France, and may spearhead their efforts to recapture the cup in Rome. Luke Donald has also been rumored to be in the running.

Stenson’s decision comes as a slight surprise, as he is not only giving up his Ryder Cup captaincy but also potential playing privileges on the PGA Tour and maybe even the DP World Tour — where he co-hosts the Scandinavian Mixed with Anika Sorenstam.

This is a coup for LIV Golf, however. Stenson’s game has diminished in recent years, but to continue to chip away at all the lions of past European Ryder Cups gives it not also some marketing points but also decimates the DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour), which owns the European side of the Ryder Cup.

At the moment, the dollar amount Stenson will receive from LIV Golf is unknown. From a financial perspective, this makes some sense for the Swede, as he was one of many victims to lose a substantial portion of his wealth in the Allen Stanford Ponzi scheme. At the time describing the loss as “a big part” of his savings, it was later revealed that Stenson had lost roughly $8 million.

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