Why Henrik Stenson thinks his Ryder Cup ouster could have been avoided

Henrik Stenson is making his LIV Golf debut this week in New Jersey.

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Plenty of golf institutions have been left unsettled by the rise of LIV Golf, and perhaps chief among them is the Ryder Cup. The biennial event, which doesn’t take place for another 13 months, has seen some of its best competitors theoretically whisked away from future competition in the last two months. 

The current rub of the situation is, we just don’t know if that means anything. 

First on the list of defectors was Dustin Johnson, who resigned his PGA Tour membership, waiving his PGA of America membership and therefore his chance to play in the Cup. Johnson, you’ll recall, went undefeated in last year’s Cup. 

Most recently on the list is Henrik Stenson, one of the greatest Ryder Cuppers in Team Europe history and the man who was captaining that side as recently as two weeks ago. It was on the final day of the Open Championship when rumors started swirling and the first report leaked: Stenson was committing to LIV Golf, and would be surrendering his captaincy. 

Days later, Ryder Cup Europe made it official, issuing the following in a statement: 

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“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.” 

Stenson released a lengthy statement later that day, saying, “While I disagree with this decision, for now it is a decision that I accept.”

Eight days later, Stenson’s acceptance sounds a bit less amicable. He spoke to reporters for the first time Thursday at the LIV Golf event in New Jersey, admitting he didn’t feel he had “given up” the duty. 

“I don’t feel like I’ve given it up. I made every arrangement possible here to be able to fulfill my captain’s duties, and I’ve had great help here from LIV to be able to do that. And still, the decision was made that I was to be removed.

“I’m obviously disappointed over the situation. But it is what it is, and yeah, we move on from there now.”

Stenson elected against detailing the contractual terms he signed with Ryder Cup Europe, which reportedly outlined that he could not both captain Team Europe and join LIV Golf. Those details may come out as the days and weeks move ahead, but Team Europe has reportedly moved on, declaring Luke Donald its captain according to multiple reports. But that doesn’t solve every question with one of the most important events in sports.

Stenson’s press conference was his first as a new member of the Majesticks team, alongside Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Sam Horsfield. Two of those three are Ryder Cup legends, who still believe they should be able to compete for the 2023 team. They were asked about their involvement in LIV Golf and how it could be viewed as surrendering a major facet of their legacies. Right now, they’re just waiting for a greater decision to be made. 

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“I believe we’re still all eligible to play. No decision has officially been made as far as I’m aware,” Poulter said, just down the table from Stenson.

“I think the criteria is in three weeks’ time, we start qualifying, but yet we still don’t have a definite answer to what that is going to actually look like. So we haven’t been given that level of information yet.”

They’re at least correct about that. Ryder Cup Europe has not yet released its qualification criteria, nor what sort of points system and events will count toward making that team. The lack of decision-making — and overall patience, to be fair — has left Team Europe with questions everywhere. Stenson even said that he hopes his chances of being involved haven’t completely evaporated with his LIV Golf decision. 

“I just expect to be treated fairly going forward depending on what the outcomes are in this whole case,” Stenson said. “And that is yet to — yet to be seen what decisions are to be made and when we’ll be notified of anything like the boys are saying here, qualification and vice captaincies and all the rest.”

If the rumors they hear are true — that qualification points will begin at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in early September — we won’t be left waiting much longer.