Robert Lee reflects on Henrik Stenson choosing the LIV Golf Invitational Series over his role as Ryder Cup captain and discusses how the Swede’s legacy could be affected by joining the Saudi-backed circuit…
It’s the worst-kept secret in history that Stenson was going to go to LIV and basically let the DP World Tour down, which is what he has done. Everyone knew this was coming at some point and we guessed that Henrik was going to go, it’s just really disappointing.
He signed a contract to be with the Tour until the end of the Ryder Cup at least and he’s reneged on what he said he would do, so left the DP World Tour with no option really.
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 so many times with players, where they say ‘I’m all PGA Tour’ then five minutes later are off to LIV, so Stenson just becomes one of those. Now, the Tour has to move past that.
I think the Ryder Cup is bigger than any individual and it’s going to be damaging for Stenson, as his legacy was excellent as a Champion Golfer of the Year, Ryder Cup player and former Race to Dubai champion. He also did the Scandinavian Mixed with Annika Sorenstam, which broke ground with males and females playing together and was brilliant.
There are so many good things to go along with the Henrik Stenson career, but this for me – after promising something then breaking it and going off to do something else – is on him. That’s not on the DP World Tour, it’s on him.
What next for Team Europe?
The next captain will be installed and then it will be business as usual for the Ryder Cup, but obviously everyone is disappointed having had assurances from Henrik that he wanted to do the job.
The committee that chooses the Ryder Cup captain will be meeting now until they reach a decision on who the next guy will be. I suppose they’re going to look at the previous ones in the frame, like Paul Lawrie and Robert Karlsson. Maybe someone comes in from the outside, like a Thomas Bjorn? Luke Donald is another one.
It’s very tricky to say right now who it’s going to be, but the process will start, it will finish, and we’ll push on from there – what else can we do?
Golf is bigger than just one thing, but LIV is going to affect what the PGA Tour does and the DP World Tour does and it will affect the Ryder Cup in some way. It already has, because our captain has gone off to join and to play with LIV and we’re having to deal with the consequences.
How can this be resolved?
LIV Golf has untold amounts of dollars coming out the ground and can keep chucking millions and millions at it. It’s not a business model, you’re just lobbing money away, and there are plenty of people willing to take it.
Cameron Smith might go and he was very non-committal after he won The Open in amazing style. He could have taken that opportunity to say that he is staying with the eco-system, but he didn’t. Smith said his team were taking care of stuff, and we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out – he’s doing well right now and has a chance to win the FedExCup.
I read that Greg Norman said very soon the 48 spots will be full for next year, so if Smith doesn’t go now or soon, does he go in and knock someone out? They’ve got decisions to make as well, so it’s going to certainly be interesting.
Golf’s tours may all get around the table, who knows, but if LIV’s plan is to stick with the 14 events and that’s unmoveable, then I see very little wriggle room and I don’t know how you can fix things.
If LIV want their 14 tournaments a year, then it detracts from the fields you can possibly get elsewhere. If LIV get a whole swathe of the best players in the world, then they won’t take part in the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour. An 18 tournament schedule, including the majors, will give them what they say they want.
That’s no fault of the traditional eco-system, it’s just the fact that LIV have come in and said ‘we’ve got this thing, we want this, and we’ve got the money to pay for it’ – that’s a difficult place to negotiate with. It’s a cash bonanza with no profit and loss to worry about. Normal rules do not apply.