Henrik Stenson confirms LIV switch but hopes to represent Team Europe at future Ryder Cups
Henrik Stenson will make his LIV Golf debut at the Bedminster event from July 29-31; Swede says he is disappointed to lose Team Europe's Ryder Cup captaincy but says he understands the decision
Last Updated: 21/07/22 9:23am
Henrik Stenson has confirmed he is joining the Saudi-backed LIV Golf International Series and says he is "disappointed" to be stripped of the Ryder Cup captaincy but hopes to represent Team Europe in the future.
Stenson will make his LIV Golf debut at the breakaway tour's third event in Bedminster, New Jersey between July 29-31, joining players including Paul Casey, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau in the field.
The 46-year-old was earlier on Wednesday stripped of Team Europe's Ryder Cup captaincy for the 2023 event in Italy and has revealed he had assurances from LIV Golf that he could continue in the role.
Writing on Twitter, Stenson said: "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.
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"This is despite me making specific arrangements with LIV golf, who have been supportive of my role as captain, to ensure I could fulfil the obligations of the captaincy. While I disagree with this decision, for now it is a decision that I accept.
"I want to thank everyone I have worked with to prepare for Rome in 2023, I am hugely disappointed to not be allowed to continue in my role but wish you all the best in your ongoing preparations.
"I sincerely hope a resolution between the tours and its members can be reached soon and that the Ryder Cup can act as a mechanism for repair amongst various golfing bodies and their members.
"It goes without saying that I remain on hand to support Ryder Cup Europe in any way I can and very much hope the opportunity to represent Team Europe in some capacity will come my way again at some point in the future."
Stenson was announced in March as Europe's successor to former captain Padraig Harrington, having made five appearances as a player before serving as a vice-captain in the record-breaking loss at Whistling Straits last September.
Stenson was linked to the breakaway circuit even before he was handed the captaincy role for next September's contest, although during a press conference at the time he said he was "fully committed to the captaincy and to Ryder Cup Europe".
'My decision has been commercially driven'
Stenson has admitted that his decision to join LIV Golf has been influenced by the money on offer and that he still hopes to play on the PGA and DP World Tour - both tours have currently banned all LIV Golf participants from their events.
LIV golf also announced on Wednesday that world number 36 Jason Kokrak and Charles Howell III would be following Stenson and joining the tour.
He said: "My interest in this concept has been well documented over the past few years and despite some of the unfortunate and ongoing tension between LIV Golf, the DP World Tour and the PGA Tours, ultimately, the opportunity to play in LIV events moving forward is something that I want to experience. Like many of my fellow professionals, my hope is that my decision to play in LIV events will not restrict me from playing on any tour.
"In closing, clearly a part of my decision to play in LIV golf events has been commercially driven but the format, schedule and calibre of player were also significant factors. I am committed to growing the game and using the game as a force for good."
"I am confident that LIV golf, just like the DP World Tour and PGA Tour, will be a force for good and I am excited to be a part of it just like I am excited, and hopeful, to continue to be a part of the DP World Tour and PGA Tour."
What has the reaction been to Stenson's decision?
The man who Stenson replaced as Ryder Cup captain, Padraig Harrington, told Sky Sports News that he understands the decision but is disappointed that his former European team-mate did not wait until after 2023 to move to LIV.
He said: "Henrik has given us plenty of time, but I do wish he'd waited 15 months. Everyone has got to make the right decisions financially for themselves and it wouldn't have been any harm, because he has signed a commitment, to wait those 15 months.
"I'm sure the same deal would've been on the table in 15 months' time for him. It's a pity about that to go, but outside of that, he has given us plenty of time. Fifteen months is loads of time for us to get somebody in place, to get a feel for what they're doing and it won't interfere at all."
Sky Sports' Rob Lee believes Stenson has let down Ryder Cup Europe with his U-turn. He said: "It's a massive honour to be Ryder Cup captain and sadly for him, he's not going to be the Ryder Cup captain anymore. How many captains get the job and go 'nah, don't want it'? The fact that Henrik has done that is for only one reason, and that is cash.
"Everyone was behind Stenson, he had given assurances, and we all thought he was going to give us two years of his time, do his captaincy and make a really good job, but now all of a sudden there has been that U-turn. We've seen that with so many players, where they say 'I'm all PGA Tour' then five minutes later are off to LIV, so Stenson just becomes one of those."
Another former Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie told Sky Sports News: "It is the greatest honour which can be bestowed on any European Tour player, captain of the Ryder Cup team. It is a shame it has even come to this position."
Two-time European Tour winner Eddie Pepperell was unequivocal as he accused Stenson of taking the money on offer on the LIV tour.
"Henrik, just be honest, it was a bucket load of cash and you couldn't resist it, like the rest of the guys," Pepperell tweeted in reply to Stenson's statement.
"Will always love your game (especially those mid-irons!) but what a disappointing thing to do."
He later added in reply to another tweet: "Don't hate it (LIV), just disappointed in the guys joining that's all. I think they're thinking solely about their own back pockets and nothing else, which frankly I have little respect for."
Frenchman Mike Lorenzo-Vera did not mix his words as he replied to Stenson's earlier statement.
"It's nice to see lawyers write instead of the player... it feels so honest. What a disappointing behavior... what a bunch of b******t... thank you to drop the team Henrik. Great role model...," he tweeted.
Who will be Team Europe's Ryder Cup captain?
Thomas Bjorn had already been appointed as one of Stenson's vice-captains, having led Europe to victory in impressive fashion at Le Golf National in 2018, with the Dane a potential candidate to take on the captaincy for a second successive home contest.
Scotland's Paul Lawrie was under consideration when Stenson was initially appointed and is likely to be once again, with former world No 1 Luke Donald a possible option having featured in four winning teams and also acting twice as a vice-captain.
Lawrie said on social media his name had 'never been out of the hat' for captaincy consideration and told Sky Sports News: "I remain committed to the Tour and would still like nothing more than to be the next Ryder Cup captain. Given the opportunity, I would see it as one of the highlights of my career."
Edoardo Molinari was already a confirmed member of Stenson's backroom staff, ahead of the Ryder Cup heading to Italy for the first time, while Robert Karlsson is another contender having served as a vice-captain for the previous two European teams.
What does it mean for Team Europe?
Stenson's removal as captain comes just over 14 months out from the biennial contest, with former PGA champion Rich Beem believing the change will create an unwanted distraction for Europe in their quest to regain the trophy.
"I think it's unfortunate for the European side," Beem told Sky Sports News. "After the Americans got the better of them by a long shot at Whistling Straits, I don't think the European team could have this on them as well.
"Both teams are probably going to change quite significantly with this LIV series, but you don't want the next Ryder Cup on European soil with distraction and this definitely a distraction.
"It'll be interesting to see exactly who joins that series next. Is it getting stronger? Yeah, and I think the DP World Tour and the PGA have their hands full with what's going on and the amount of money being thrown at these players."
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