The LIV Golf Series showed Henrik Stenson the money. Team Europe promptly showed the newly minted Ryder Cup captain the door.
Stenson was relieved of his captaincy by Team Europe on the heels of his decision to jump to the high-paying, Saudi-funded LIV, the rising rival of the PGA Tour and DP World Tour. An official announcement on his alignment with the upstart tour is expected Wednesday.
“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,” the DP World Tour said in a press release Wednesday.
The 46-year-old Stenson was named captain in March. He was thought to be out the door to the LIV earlier this year, but he paused that decision based on backlash Phil Mickelson absorbed for his controversial remarks about the league and its Saudi Arabian funding. He’s currently ranked 171st in the World Golf Rankings.
But like many other professionals, Stenson’s contract with the LIV is expected to be massive and guaranteed.
In addition to Americans Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, notable European golfers Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Sergio Garcia have joined the LIV.
The cost for leaving the PGA Tour and DP World Tour has been membership status. Garcia said at the Open Championship he planned to exit the DP Tour.
United States Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson said he understood why his peers would be intrigued by the LIV. He also said the disconnect from the Ryder Cup for those leaving for that payday should be expected.
“In order to play on the Ryder Cup team whether you’re top 6 or a pick, you must garner Ryder Cup points through the PGA of America,” Johnson said. “In order to garner Ryder Cup points through the PGA of America, you have to be a member of the PGA of America. The way that we’re members of the PGA of America is through the PGA Tour. I’ll let you connect the dots from there.”
Stenson missed the cut at the 2022 Open Championship, running his string of leaving tournaments before the third round to four in a row. He last made the cut to play in the third round in April at the RBC Heritage.
Stenson has an exemption to play in golf’s majors under the USGA rules as a past Open champion (2016).
According to its press release, Team Europe plans to announce a new captain “in due course” and will have no further comment or reaction to Stenson’s status.
The 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome, Italy, is scheduled from Sept. 25 to Oct. 1, 2023.
Garcia and Poulter have been outspoken proponents of allowing international players to maintain Ryder Cup status. Westwood said last month he would like more clarity on Team Europe’s position.
“I’ve been playing Ryder Cup golf since 1997, and the criteria has been to be a member of the European (DP World) Tour. Now, the criteria for being a member of the European Tour is to play four events. Why should they change that now?” Westwood said. “I’ve been a member of the PGA Tour and still played four events on the European Tour, and why would the European Tour change their rules so dramatically because another tour doesn’t like it or feels financially threatened? There’s just a bit too much protection going on for my liking and not enough transparency.”
–Field Level Media