The move will deepen the rift in the sport, with more and more big stars defecting to new, cash-rich circuits as opposed to existing tours.
Henrik Stenson Wednesday was stripped of the European Ryder Cup captaincy, with the Swede understood to be on the verge of joining the Saudi-funded rebel LIV Golf series. After talks with European Ryder Cup officials, the decision was made to effectively sack the 46-year-old as team captain for events in Italy next year. The move will deepen the rift in the sport, with more and more big stars defecting to new, cash-rich circuits as opposed to existing tours.
Ryder Cup Europe said in a statement that Stenson’s tenure as captain for the biennial competition against the United States in Rome had ended “immediately”.
“Given the decision made by Henrik in relation to his personal circumstances, it becomes clear that he will not be able to fulfill certain contractual obligations for the European Ryder Cup,” he said.
The statement added that confirmation of a new captain for the 2023 tournament would be made in due course. Stenson is reportedly joining fellow Ryder Cup stars Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia in jumping ship to the LIV series.
Next year’s US team looks set to be without players of the caliber of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau, all of whom were subject to indefinite bans by the PGA Tour and therefore ineligible to play.
Stenson, the 2016 British Open champion, reached a career high of number two in the world but has since slumped to 171.
His appointment as Team Europe captain in March appeared to end speculation about his involvement in the Saudi-backed breakaway series as he made it clear he was fully committed to the role.
But after failing to qualify at last week’s British Open, Stenson admits his upcoming schedule “has not been decided”.
His anticipated defection to the LIV series would be a new headache for the existing tour, which was powerless to prevent big-name players like Phil Mickelson and Johnson from joining the rebel circuit.
European players must be members of the DP World Tour, formerly known as the European Tour, to be eligible to compete for Team Europe in the Ryder Cup.
Last month’s tour banned members from playing at Britain’s inaugural LIV event for three tournaments and hit them with heavy fines.
Donald Trump on Monday urged golfers to “take the money” and sign with LIV Golf. The former US president, who hosted LIV events on two of his golf courses this year, said in a post on his Truth Social network that players should not hesitate to leave the US PGA Tour, which he called “unfaithful”. LIV Golf, fronted by Australian great Greg Norman, is funded by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund.
Human rights groups have criticized the effort, saying it is being used to boost Saudi Arabia’s international reputation, a phenomenon it has labeled “sports laundering”.
The third 54-hole LIV event of the season will tee off at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, New Jersey, on July 29. The court for the tournament includes former British world number three Paul Casey, who will be on court alongside the top 10 champions.