Stenson joins LIV Golf after Ryder Cup withdrawal

Stenson joins LIV Golf after Ryder Cup withdrawal

Henrik Stenson said in March it was “a dream” to be named European Ryder Cup captain

Henrik Stenson has joined the LIV Golf series following his dismissal as European Ryder Cup captain.

The 46-year-old Swede was sacked by Ryder Cup Europe on Wednesday morning and later issued a statement confirming he was joining the controversial Saudi-backed breakaway event.

He said he didn’t agree with the decision to remove him as captain, but “for now it’s a decision I accept”.

Stenson, winner of the Open in 2016, was named captain in March.

“Unfortunately, my decision to play in LIV events has caused Ryder Cup Europe to communicate that it is not possible for me to continue in my role as Ryder Cup Captain,” Stenson said.

“This despite the fact that I have made specific arrangements with LIV Golf, who have supported my role as captain, to ensure that I can fulfill the obligations of captaincy.”

He added: “I am extremely disappointed not to be allowed to continue in my role, but I wish you all the best in your ongoing preparations.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Ryder Cup Europe said it was not possible for Stenson to continue in his role and that his tenure would end with “immediate effect”.

Ryder Cup Europe added that the decision was made “in light of decisions taken by Henrik in relation to his personal situation” and that it had “become clear” that he would “not be able to fulfill certain contractual obligations towards Ryder Cup Europe”.

Former Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington has said Stenson’s departure will not affect Europe’s preparations for next year’s event in Rome.

“We knew it was coming, in some respects, and we had been planning for it for 10 days,” Harrington, who will be part of the committee reconvened to choose a replacement, told Sky Sports.

“That gives us plenty of time, in terms of 15 months, to get our ducks online.

“We’re already talking about when we’ll meet to elect the next captain. It’s really not going to interfere with the Ryder Cup in any form.

“I wish he had waited 15 months. Everyone has to make the right decision financially for themselves.”

Stenson had been linked to the new LIV series before being announced as captain of the 2023 Ryder Cup, saying at the time: “There has been a lot of rumors and speculation in the media over a long period of time.

“And, as I said to the panel and to the Ryder Cup Europe, I am fully committed to being the captain, to delivering the best possible result with the team. It’s all been focused on that – and any steam to Rome.

“There is a captains agreement that every captain signs and I signed one as well. I think actions speak louder than words.”

Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn and England’s Luke Donald are among the favorites to replace Stenson for next year’s Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf Club in Italy.

The PGA Tour has suspended a number of its members who competed in LIV Golf’s first two events.

Former Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama could be set to join the series, with three more top players will be named in the coming days.

Paul McGinley, captain of Europe until winning the Ryder Cup in 2014, said Stenson “isn’t going to come out of this with a bang”.

“He does it for the money,” he said. “I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision for him. But, in the end, he made that decision. It’s something that disappoints me. But I can understand.

“I’m not going to criticize the guys who went to LIV. They were offered huge sums of money.

“For Henrik, it’s life changing at this stage of his career. He’s unlikely to ever make that kind of money in the future. But is he doing it to revolutionize a game that needs to be changed?

“I’ve had a great relationship with him as captain and player over the years, so I’m not going to criticize him for being judgmental. Everyone is entitled to their own view of things. But it’s incredibly disappointing. for the Ryder Cup. There’s no doubt about that.”

Meanwhile, 2010 Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie said: “This is a very sad day for European golf.”

‘Stenson has undoubtedly left Europe in the lurch’ – Analysis

Iain Carter, BBC golf correspondent

Why would LIV want to spend millions on the 171st ranked player in the world who hasn’t finished in the top 10 in a full event for almost a year?

The answer, of course, was Stenson’s status as Ryder Cup captain. This made them a prime target and LIV’s recruitment of the Swedish veteran can only be interpreted as a direct attack on the DP World Tour.

It further destabilizes the functioning of elite men’s golf.

There will be fury among European Tour members that Stenson reneged on his pledge of loyalty when he signed a contract last March only to lead Europe in the upcoming Ryder Cup.

LIV have already snatched up an expected succession of European captains – Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell and now Stenson. All are Ryder Cup legends who have been influenced by millions of Saudis.

Stenson has undoubtedly left Europe in the lurch and the previously stellar image of the 2016 Open champion will be badly tarnished in the eyes of many observers.

Europe must now find a new skipper, with Thomas Bjorn, Luke Donald and Paul Lawrie being the most likely candidates. Whoever takes over will be part of a Ryder Cup that is in danger of being seriously compromised.

LIV, meanwhile, is gaining momentum. Stenson is one of three expected new signings, with much speculation that 2021 Masters winner Hideki Matsuyama, the biggest name in Asian golf, will also be among them.

Open champion Cameron Smith has done nothing to quell speculation he will default, but it could happen after FedEx and the Presidents Cup later this year.

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