The growing split at the top of golf will widen significantly on Wednesday with the expected confirmation that Henrik Stenson will not captain Europe in the Ryder Cup next year, having accepted a lucrative offer to join the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV tour.
Talks between Stenson and Ryder Cup Europe took place on Tuesday. While there has been no comment from Ryder Cup Europe it is understood they are resigned to losing their captain. The 46-year-old Stenson could even feature when LIV stages its third event next week in New Jersey.
Stenson was announced in mid-March as Europe’s successor to Pádraig Harrington, at which point he signed a contractual commitment to the Ryder Cup. That clearly was not compatible with the rebel LIV Series, which has found itself in conflict with the DP World Tour, formerly the European Tour.
Yet speculation that Stenson, who would have become Sweden’s first Ryder Cup captain, could be tempted by LIV millions never really went away. LIV now has its man, which will leave Europe seeking a replacement leader for the clash with the US team in Rome in September next year. It remains to be seen what level of backlash Stenson receives for turning his back on the prestigious role, especially in his home country.
Luke Donald and Paul Lawrie were in the frame to captain Europe at the time of Stenson’s appointment. It is possible, though, that Europe could return to a past captain such as Thomas Bjørn. Sergio García announced at the weekend that he would be resigning from the DP World Tour, which excludes him from Ryder Cup playing and captaincy roles.
Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter, all veterans of the Ryder Cup with Europe, are already LIV converts. Stenson would say only that his schedule for the year was “undecided” after missing the cut in the Open Championship last week. The winner of the Claret Jug at Royal Troon in 2016, Stenson has slipped to 171st in the world. He is without a mainstream tour win since 2017.
LIV has also been heavily linked with Cameron Smith, the new Open champion, and the former Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama.