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Stenson LIV Tour switch stuns world of golf

Henrik Stenson

Gloomy day for golf as Henrik Stenson turns his back on DP World Tour and Ryder Cup for huge money on LIV Golf Series

The LIV Golf Series made a huge swoop on Wednesday 20 July as they announced Henrik Stenson as the latest player to join the controversial Saudi-backed tour.

The Iceman was one of the most popular players on the European circuit who was set to captain Team Europe in the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome, Italy for the first time. However, his decision to turn his back on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour has left a very sour taste.

There’s no doubt that the 46-year-old’s best days on the golf course have long passed so this move to the LIV Golf Series is purely for money. There are no cuts in the 54-hole shotgun tournaments, so the one-time Major winner is guaranteed a pay cheque for every event.

This is pivotal when the world’s 171st-ranked player has not posted a top-10 finish in a full-field event for almost a year.

In addition, there is the team element of the LIV Series which the players often use as an excuse to join. With Stenson being set to captain the Ryder Cup next year, it appears he won’t play in the event again so this is something that will have persuaded his move.

Money over Ryder Cup legacy

However, it must have been quite an easy decision for Stenson because of the huge offer on the table from the Saudi-backed Tour. They reportedly paid Phil Mickelson $250 million to join so I imagine the Swede’s offer was at least half of this hefty amount, if not more. It’s almost impossible to turn down an offer like that.

Stenson being the Ryder Cup captain made him a prime target for LIV’s recruitment team because it can only be interpreted as a direct attack on the DP World Tour. If one of the most loyal players and fans’ favourite can be persuaded to join – anyone can.

If you roll back the years to 2013, Stenson was at the peak of his powers when he became the first golfer in the world to win the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai in the same season. From July that year, he played in 11 tournaments across the PGA Tour and DP World Tour. In eight of those 11 events, he finished in the top 10. He won three times, including the final tournament of each season. Those statistics are just remarkable.

He then won his first major at The Open in 2016 beating his new colleague Mickelson in dramatic fashion in one of the most memorable tournaments in the history of golf. It appeared the charismatic 3-wood specialist was excited about his next challenge as the Ryder Cup Captain when it was announced in March.

He said: “When I started out as professional golfer, it was beyond my wildest dreams that, one day, I would follow in the footsteps of legends of the game such as Seve (Ballesteros) and be the European Ryder Cup Captain. It proves that sometimes, dreams do come true.” Now he has turned his back on his dream and the Tours that helped him become a star, simply for a huge pay cheque.

LIV Golf gaining momentum

Stenson is set to make his LIV Golf Invitational debut in Bedminster from July 29-31, the third of eight events scheduled in 2022, alongside American duo Jason Kokrak and Charles Howell III who were the other two announcements.

Ryder Cup stalwart Paul Casey also makes his debut at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, joining former Ryder Cup winners Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood in action, along with last year’s participant Bernd Wiesberger.

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

One thing for certain is that the LIV Series is not going anywhere and is getting stronger by the month. They now have an array of the top players in the world competing which is worrying for the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour. With their fields getting weaker every week and players not showing the loyalty they expected, they’re going to have to learn to accept the LIV Tour and find a way of attracting and keeping the best players away from LIV.

The CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf, Greg Norman, is reportedly targeting Hideki Matsuyama and last week’s Open winner Cameron Smith as his next targets. If he lands Asia’s best player and the World No.2, it will be a huge swoop. LIV’s clichéd slogan, ‘Don’t blink or you’ll miss it’ seems to be perfect.

About the author

James Kelbrick

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