Henrik Stenson on verge of joining LIV Golf, likely losing Ryder Cup captaincy

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — The controversial LIV Golf tour has struck golf with yet another bombshell development just hours after Cameron Smith was crowned as the British Open champion Sunday night.

The Greg Norman-fronted, Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour, which has rattled the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour, has now officially touched the beloved Ryder Cup.

According to the Swedish newspaper Expressen, European Ryder Cup captain Henrik Stenson is on the verge of joining LIV Golf.

If the 46-year-old Swede, who missed the Open cut by one shot on Friday at St. Andrews, indeed joins LIV it’s believed that he would immediately be stripped of his Ryder Cup captaincy.

The 2023 Ryder Cup is to be played at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome, Italy from Sept. 25 to Oct. 1, 2023.

Stenson, the 2016 Open champion who has enjoyed an impressive Ryder Cup career, helping Europe to victory in three of five of his appearances as a player, said when he was appointed, “I am absolutely thrilled and delighted to be the European Ryder Cup Captain. It’s a huge honor and I was humbled to get the call confirming the news. I will do everything in my power and leave no stone unturned in the quest to get the Ryder Cup back in European hands.

Henrik Stenson
AFP via Getty Images

“The Ryder Cup is golf, and sport, at its very best. I got goose bumps every time I pulled on a European shirt as a player and that will be magnified in the role of captain. 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 [Ballesteros] and be the European Ryder Cup Captain. But today proves that, sometimes, dreams do come true.”

That dream appears to be on the verge of dying as Stenson chooses the Saudi money over legacy.

Stenson told reporters after he missed the cut Friday that his schedule for the remainder of the year was “undecided.”

Stenson, who was named captain in March, may be replaced by Luke Donald, who seems to be next in line. Stenson had already appointed Thomas Bjorn and Edoardo Molinari as two of his assistants.

American captain Zach Johnson has already stated that no LIV players will be able to play any part in next year’s match.

Should Stenson go to LIV, he’ll join a number of other European Ryder Cup stalwarts who have made the move, including Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Martin Kaymer, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell, all of whom would have been strong contenders for the captaincy in the coming years.

Speaking of Garcia, the 42-year-old Spaniard went off after what may have been his final St. Andrews British Open round on Sunday.

Garcia told Spanish reporters after his round that he plans to resign from the DP World Tour, formerly known as the European Tour, because he doesn’t “feel loved.’’

Garcia, who finished 2-under par for the week at the Open, resigning from the DP World Tour will make him ineligible for the Ryder Cup, despite the fact that he’s the all-time leading points scorer.

Sergio Garcia reacts during the final round of the British Open.
Sergio Garcia reacts during the final round of the British Open.

“I am quite clear about what I am going to do with the European circuit — probably leave it,” Garcia said. “Honestly, I want to play where they love me. I like to feel loved and sincerely in the European Tour I don’t feel loved now. I have what I have and I am very happy with it and I want to enjoy it to the fullest. I’ll play less, I’ll be home more.

“If I don’t play big [events, like majors and Ryder Cups], then I don’t play them, but honestly I don’t care much either.’’

Garcia said, “There are comments that do not make you feel good,’’ referring to the PGA Tour and DP World Tour denouncing LIV Golf.

“I have given more than half of my life to the European Tour and feel that because you make a personal and professional decision and look once for you they treat you like that, it’s not worth it,’’ he said. “There are things that can be done differently. What they are doing is a shame because the European Tour is going to become the fifth [best] in the world.”

The LIV Golf players were treated like dirt this week. Not a single player involved with LIV was invited into the media room for a pre-tournament press conference by the R&A. Norman, a two-time Open champion, was essentially banned from coming to St. Andrews to partake in the Tuesday night Champions Dinner or the Monday exhibition involving past champions.

Phil Mickelson was asked by the R&A not to attend either, which he obliged, despite the fact that he was playing in the tournament.

Anyone watching the TV coverage could notice that LIV players were barely shown on the broadcasts.

Cameron Smith, who won the Open on Sunday, has been rumored to be mulling a move to LIV and was asked about it during his victory press conference.

“I just won the British Open, and you’re asking about that,’’ he said. “I think that’s pretty not that good. I don’t know, mate. My team around me worries about all that stuff. I’m here to win golf tournaments.”

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