Henrik Stenson wins first LIV tour event since defecting and losing his Ryder Cup captaincy


Henrik Stenson wins first LIV tour event since defecting and being stripped of his Ryder Cup captaincy – GETTY IMAGES

Henrik Stenson’s decision last week to join the Saudi rebel circuit and force the Ryder Cup Europe to strip him of his captaincy was hugely controversial. Still, no one can deny that it was also insanely lucrative, with a remarkably quick return.

On winning his first LIV event here, Stenson, 46, added £3.3m to the £40m he received to break the contract he signed to lead his continent into next year’s Ryder Cup .

There was another £305,000, his second-team share here, but that’s such a ridiculous amount of money compared to barely seeming worth mentoring (although that eight per cent of his payday is still more than Sean Crocker collected to win his first DP World Tour title on Sunday).

In the past two weeks, the Swede hasn’t quite doubled his career earnings, but he’s come close, and given that the 2016 Open champion won £10 million in two months in 2013 – after completing both the PGA Tour if the European Tour had won – season bonuses – that’s downright ridiculous.

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But then, in a tie for sixth, Westwood took home nearly £1 million, having also factored in his team earnings alongside Stenson. At 49, the English veteran can hardly believe his luck and no one should be wondering why he is playing LIV.

Stenson’s timing was certainly priceless, as he shot a 69 for a total of 11 under to beat Americans Matthew Wolff and Dustin Johnson by two strokes. “I played like a captain,” Stenson said with a grin.

On Monday, Luke Donald will be officially announced as Stenson’s replacement and the Englishman will certainly be asked about his statement: “I will not do a Henrik”. But “doing a Henrik” definitely has a different layer of meaning now. Would you go back on your word for almost £45 million in 12 days?

As it is, Stenson continues to feel mortified about his treatment of the Tour, which quickly removed him from the role when he revealed he was signing for Greg Norman’s venture. Unsurprisingly, Stenson was backed by his fellow Rebels, who agree there was no reason why he shouldn’t be allowed to continue his job while he appeared in the breakaway league.

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Conveniently, this ignores his signature on that contract that essentially stated that he would not join LIV. “It was a bitter and vicious move,” said David Feherty, the former Ryder Cup player from Ulster who is now a LIV analyst. “Henrik came here with something to prove.”

Henrik Stenson won the New Jersey event by two strokes - GETTY IMAGES

Henrik Stenson won the New Jersey event by two strokes – GETTY IMAGES

If he’s proven anything, it’s that there’s life in that old threewood, and he can still conjure beautiful iron shots. This is his first title since December 2019 and while the former world number 2 ranking will remain outside the top 170 – LIV events is still waiting to see if the events are approved for world ranking status – there was so much comfort on the hand that there are barely enough pockets in New Jersey to tuck it in.

Stenson’s wire-to-wire comeback capped off another bizarre and hectic week for LIV, but the series will be eerily quiet for a few weeks as there’s a month-plus hiatus between the third and fourth events.

But while the PGA Tour may be happy to calm hostilities as it organizes its £60 million end-of-season playoffs, the Greg Norman company’s warning that the last week of August will see the exodus of big-name players will reach a new peak. level of controversy.

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“More things to come,” Norman said. “To put it this way, we wouldn’t have made the announcement sooner about the league’s launch next year if there wasn’t a clear indication of how solid we feel about the players we’ll have next year.”

With big names such as Hideki Matsuyama and Open champion Cam Smith constantly rumored, as well as many other high-profile competitors, there is a burgeoning theory that a series of heavyweights will be announced after the Tour Championship – in which the FedEx winner will walk with £15 million – on August 28 and then also after the Presidents Cup on September 25.

The LIV campaign culminates October 28-31 on another Trump course. Doral – the annual Miami stop on the PGA Tour from 1962 to 2016 – will host the £40 million team climax and after this experience there can be no doubt that the former president will be in attendance.

The 76-year-old was here during this 54-hole game, drawing more crowds than the players themselves, with several hundred gathering outside the clubhouse to catch the occasional glimpse of Trump as he chanted “four more years.” Sometimes this seemed less like a sports game and more like a political rally.


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