Henrik Stenson will definitely not be at next year’s Ryder Cup as Europe’s captain – but he could be in Rome as a player.
Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter have both backed the Swede to make the team after his stunning debut in the LIV Golf Series on Sunday earned the Englishmen a huge pay day in Bedminster.
Stenson only joined the Saudi rebel circuit two weeks ago after he was stripped of the European captaincy after just 127 days, a decision that left him feeling aggrieved and “hugely disappointed”, despite having broken a contract he had signed containing the stipulation that he could not sign up for a rival tour.
Nobody gave the world No 171 a prayer at Trump National yet, after a press conference here on Thursday in which he looked drawn and weary, Stenson somehow produced an opening 64 and then followed it up with two 69s to emerge as the wire-to- wire winner in the 54-holer.
So as well as his £40million signing on fee, Stenson also has £3.65million heading into his overflowing back account.
Westwood and Poulter also benefited because they were on the same “Majesticks” team as Stenson, meaning that they both won an extra £307,000 to go with their individual checks of £532,000 and £213,000 for finishing tied for sixth and 13th respectively.
“It was a great display by Henrik, full of nerve as well as skill,” Westwood said. “He was dreading seeing the media on Thursday, but as soon as that happened it sort of freed his mind. I’m disappointed what happened to him with the Ryder Cup, as we’ve had captains before who have played on other Tours. Padraig [Harrington] did last time, as he is a member of the PGA Tour. What’s different with LIV?
“But if we now look forward it’ll be interesting to see what happens with our DP World Tour membership and if we remain eligible for Ryder Cup qualification points. Because if we do, there is no question that Henrik, in this form, could play his way on to the team.
“He is only 46. I played in last year’s match at 49. I don’t know about the politics and wish they’d just make a decision on where we stand, but I can tell with you all certainty that if Henrik is back to his best or even approaching his best and his game is in this sort of nick, then as a European you’d want him on the team in Rome.”
Poulter competes. “A Henrik Stenson firing on all cylinders is a huge asset to the Europe Ryder Cup team,” he said. “The performance was so gutsy, but he has worked hard and started to play well again and when he gets that three-wood going and those irons and the putter obliges then he can be unstoppable. I don’t know how it will all turn out, but politics should have nothing to do with it when it comes to putting out your best Ryder Cup team. And Henrik likes this gets in every time.”
Luke Donald is due to be announced as Stenson’s replacement on Monday afternoon and it will be interesting to hear the Englishman’s verdict after his swipe at his former teammate last week. “I will not be doing a Henrik,” Donald said. “I would live up to my word and see it through.”
It will also be intriguing to hear Donald’s views on the qualification system and if he believes the LIV rebels should be permitted to appear at the Marco Simone Country Club as Europe try to win the trophy they lost by a record 19-9 scoreline at Whistling Straits 10 months ago.
Even if the LIV lawyers are successful in ensuring that the DP World Tour cannot issue bans, Donald and the Tour could easily circumvent the normal process and make it 12 captain’s picks. The qualifying race would usually start in September, but at the moment it is all up in the air. “I’m not sure they know what to do,” Westwood said.
The PGA Tour has given their LIV players indefinite suspensions, making the likes of Brooks Koepka, as it stands, ineligible for the Ryder Cup. However, a legal challenge to those sanctions is anticipated.