Henrik Stenson could not resist taking a dig at his Ryder Cup predicament after winning his debut event on the breakaway golf tour at LIV Golf Bedminster, saying "I guess we can agree I played like a captain".

Stenson – who was sensationally stripped of his Ryder Cup captaincy after announcing he would leave the PGA Tour – was a wire-to-wire winner in the 54-hole event, shooting a seven-under 64 in his opening round, before following it with a pair of 69s.

He finished two strokes ahead of Matthew Wolff and Dustin Johnson at nine under, with Carlos Ortiz (eight under) and Patrick Reed (seven under) rounding out the top-five, and a further three-stroke buffer to sixth.

Speaking immediately after sinking his winning putt, Stenson said it was pleasing to perform so well after such a hectic couple of weeks, but only after taking a shot at those in charge of his Ryder Cup ban.

"Yeah, I guess we can agree I played like a captain," he said, before acknowledging Ian Poulter is the captain of his Majesticks GC team.

"It's been a busy 10 days, and I'm extremely proud that I managed to focus as well as I did. I was a little wobbly coming home here – I haven't finished the deal in a couple of years with any wins – so it's always a little added pressure when you're up in contention, but I did well."

For the win, Stenson pocketed a $4.375million cheque, as well as a $375,000 bonus for his team finishing in second-place, only trailing Dustin Johnson's 4 Aces GC, which included Pat Perez at five over.

Stenson is understood to have accepted a signing-on fee to join LIV Golf in the region of $50 million, according to ESPN's report.

Luke Donald has taken a dig at Henrik Stenson by declaring he will keep his word and "see it through" if he is named Europe's Ryder Cup captain.

Stenson was last week stripped of the honour of leading Europe against the United States in Rome next year after electing to join LIV Golf.

Donald is reportedly set to replace the Swede, and the Englishman is under the impression he has "a very good chance" of taking the role after holding talks.

"There’s nothing official to report," Donald told Golfweek. "I have been in talks with Guy [Kinnings, Ryder Cup director] at the European Tour. And that's all I know right now.

"I know I have a very good chance, Thomas Bjorn and a couple other guys are under consideration."

Donald, who never finished on a losing side in the four Ryder Cups he played in, says there is no chance he would take up a deal with LIV Golf after agreeing to captain Europe.

"If I got this captaincy, I would live up to my word and see it through," he said. "Let me put it that way. I wouldn't be doing a Henrik."

The 44-year-old Donald is disappointed Stenson defected to join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series but would "love" to step in for Ryder Cup duty, with the 2016 Open champion out of the picture.

Donald said: "I've certainly had some of my best moments on the golf course in the Ryder Cups. What an amazing honour it is to represent Europe in the Ryder Cup, and I would love to be a captain.

"That would be a huge honour as well. I was surprised that he would put his name forward if his plan was to go to LIV, which, you know, the rumours, and I hate to talk about rumours, but rumours are that he'd been in contact with the rival tours, whatever they were, and he was very interested.

"And I think everyone knew that, the European Tour knew that. They obviously took his word that he wasn't going to do it. We all have to sign a clause or contract saying that we won't have anything to do with (LIV).

"I'm disappointed I guess that he would put his name forward and then go to LIV. I understand certain guys going to LIV, in certain situations in their careers and stuff, that makes sense. But obviously something big to give up."

Donald revealed he has been offered a chance to be part of LIV Golf, but only for a television role.

He said: "Turned that down pretty quickly. A little bit of a slight on my game. I know I haven't played that great, but thanks but no thanks."

Henrik Stenson says he is "obviously disappointed" to no longer be European Ryder Cup captain but has to "move on" as he prepares to make his LIV Golf debut.

The Swede was last week stripped of the honour of leading Europe in Rome next year after signing a lucrative deal to join the Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway LIV Golf series.

Stenson had hoped he would be able to continue as captain despite his defection, but says he is looking to the future ahead of his first LIV Golf appearance in Bedminster on Friday.

He told reporters on Thursday: "I don't feel like I've given it up. I made every arrangement possible here to be able to fulfil my captain's duties, and I've had great help here from LIV to be able to do that.

"And still, the decision was made that I was to be removed. I'm obviously disappointed over the situation. But it is what it is, and yeah, we move on from there now."

Luke Donald is reportedly set to be named as Europe's new captain, but Stenson says he is not aware of who is successor will be.

"That's news to me," Stenson said when asked about the prospect of Donald getting the job.

"Obviously, I'm not in the loop on these things at this point. I don't feel like I should comment on that until that's official news, if that were to be the case."

Sergio Garcia has revealed he will "hold off" on quitting the DP World Tour, claiming he remains hopeful he can feature at the Ryder Cup despite signing up to feature in the LIV Golf series.

Garcia is one of several big names to join Greg Norman's controversial breakaway tour in recent months, and declared earlier in July he was "quite clear" on his intention to quit the European circuit. 

At this month's Open, the 2017 Masters champion also said he had all but given up on another Ryder Cup appearance after claiming he was "not wanted" on the European tour. 

Last week, Europe's 2023 Ryder Cup captain Henrik Stenson was stripped of the role after signing up to the LIV circuit, while both the PGA and DP World Tours have looked to sanction players joining the series.

But Garcia has gone back on his earlier pledge, and says he will wait for clarification on his chances of Ryder Cup participation before making any decision on his future.

"When I finished the Open Championship [last] Sunday, I said that I was most likely going to resign my membership from the [DP World] Tour," Garcia told ESPN. "That obviously meant not being eligible for the Ryder Cup because you have to be a member.

"[But] I had a couple of good conversations with guys on the [DP World] Tour, I'm going to hold off on that.

"I want to at least see what's happening when Ryder Cup qualification starts. See what kind of rules and eligibilities they have in there. If I agree with what they [are], I'll definitely keep playing whatever I can on the tour and try to qualify for that Ryder Cup team.

"And if not, then we'll move on. But it is definitely something that is in my mind.

"I told Keith Pelley [chief executive of the DP World Tour]: 'I want to keep being a member of the DP World Tour. I want to play my minimum, still support the tour, still have my eligibilities to make Ryder Cup teams.

"He said: 'That's great, but we've got to do what's best for us'. We'll see what that is."

However, Garcia did express sympathy for Stenson, describing the Swede's Ryder Cup ousting as "sad".

"Now it's gotten a little bit sadder with fines and bans," Garcia added. "What they did to Henrik. It's a little bit sad."

Garcia finished 24th in LIV Golf's first event in London at the start of June before posting a 26th-placed finish in Portland in early July. 

Cameron Smith may be swayed by the lucrative financial offer from the LIV Golf International Series, but must consider whether he will enjoy competing on the breakaway tour.

That is the message from former Ryder Cup captain Mark James, who acknowledged the financial benefits of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf but was unsure of the merits of a competition still in its infancy.

Smith secured his first major title at the historic 150th Open Championship last weekend, triumphing ahead of Cameron Young and Rory McIlroy on the picturesque Old Course at St Andrews.

While lauded for the blemish-free final round that ensured Open glory, speculation grew that Smith may become the next high-profile defector to LIV Golf, the tournament headed by Greg Norman.

Smith refused to comment on the matter as he celebrated at St Andrews, remaining non-committal on his future as he expressed his disappointment with the line of questioning following his Open victory.

Though James, a 32-time professional winner, appreciated the lucrative offers LIV Golf are making to secure the PGA Tour's prized assets, he warned Smith to think carefully about his future.

"I would imagine right now they're weighing up his contracts, weighing up what you'll get for playing the LIV Golf Tour and what you'll get for playing around the world and having all these contracts," James told Stats Perform.

"And I mean, yeah, they might pay him. They would have to pay him I would think 100 million to play LIV Golf Tour compared to winning the Open and having all those contracts, maybe more.

"I don't know, I'm a bit out of touch with the big money game these days. But that means you don't have to work the rest of your life, even at his age 100 million will go a long way.

"But he's going to be playing, is he going to be playing with his mind on the golf? Is he going to really enjoy it? I don't know.

"I think there's a lot of question marks over this tour. And it will be interesting to see what the outcome is."

Henrik Stenson relinquished his Ryder Cup captaincy after becoming the next big-name signing for LIV Golf, announced on Wednesday alongside Jason Kokrak and Charles Howell III.

The breakaway league already has the likes of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, with every defector banned from playing on the PGA Tour as retaliation to their move away.

And James, who had a long career on the European Tour and has played on the US-based Champions Tour in senior golf, does not envisage LIV Golf succeeding, likening the tournaments to "exhibition events". 

"They've gone in extremely heavy-handedly LIV Golf," he added. "But then I suppose if they're trying to take players away from the two major tours, they have to because the two majors are so protective of their product.

"But I agree with the two main tours, I think they have to be and I think the two main tours are brilliant for golf, because they have a pyramid system on both tours where anyone who's any good will make it to the top. It is that simple.

"Whereas, if LIV Golf were in charge, then that would not be the case. We'll see if they're still talking at the end of the year. Maybe something can be thrashed out and both tours can end a little sooner and have some big jamboree at the end of the year for six, eight weeks for anyone who wants to play.

"Certain events might be better suited but LIV Golf seems to want to take over the whole thing. And I think those tournaments are not good for golf right now. They're basically exhibition events.

"People are getting paid crazy amounts of money and there's a lot of animosity between current tour players and the LIV Golf players. So it's not a great situation. And I don't think LIV Golf have handled it well. 

"I'm not sure Norman is a particularly good spokesman because they've taken him out in the press to a large extent, because he wasn't really voicing what Saudi wants someone to say.

"But, equally, I think that the pros from the tours who signed up with LIV Golf have not exactly been eloquent in defence of LIV Golf. So the whole thing, I think, is a little shambolic.

"But as I say, if you want to take golf by the scruff of the neck and make an impression on the main tour players, then maybe this is the only way to try and do it."

Henrik Stenson cannot feel slighted by losing the Ryder Cup captaincy over his decision to join LIV Golf, according to Europe's 1999 skipper Mark James.

James, who was captain when Europe surrendered a 10-6 lead to suffer defeat at Brookline, said Stenson's move represented a major coup for LIV, but insisted most of the breakaway tour's players were "past their peak".

Stenson became the latest big name to sign up for the controversial Saudi-backed tour on Wednesday, a decision that saw him stripped of Europe's captaincy for the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome.

The 2016 Open champion wrote on twitter that he disagreed with the decision to remove him from that role, but James feels here was no other alternative.

"I don't think it was so much Ryder Cup Europe making a decision. Henrik was unable to fulfil the obligations of his Ryder Cup captain's contract," James told Stats Perform. 

"If you can't fulfil the obligations, then the agreement is null and void. 

"It's virtually a mutual decision. He can say, 'well, I didn't agree with the captaincy being pulled'. If he can't fulfil his contract, I'm not too sure what he expects. 

"I don't know if Henrik needs the money. It's entirely possible. You hear rumours of a lot of tour players losing vast amounts of money with investments, I'd have no idea if he was one of those. 

"But he'll be getting an awful lot of money for being Ryder Cup captain and stuff associated with that. So for him to jump to the LIV Tour means they're offering him a very, very nice wheelbarrow load of cash."

The LIV series already counted experienced pros such as Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter among its ranks, and James believes the circuit has found it far easier to persuade older players to sign up.

James did, however, note the recruitment of a player set to be Ryder Cup captain represented a significant coup for the Greg Norman-led tour.

"Their strategy is to get people who will come and if you get people in their 40s, they are way more likely to come than people in their 20s," James continued.

"They're building up names on their tour and having a tour full of good, big names, even if they're slightly past their peak, which you could argue that Westwood, Poulter, Stenson and [Paul] Casey and others are, is giving them a star-studded field and it's an inducement to other players to then jump on board. 

"Certainly, [for] a Ryder Cup captain to sign up is a coup. Henrik knows what he's doing. He's not daft. And he's a really lovely guy. I like him a lot. 

"It's a great shame because he would have been a brilliant captain. And that ship now has sailed and it's a pity. It would have been a real jewel in a glittering career."

Attention will now turn to Ryder Cup Europe's efforts to replace Stenson, which 2021 skipper Padraig Harrington said on Wednesday will be "no issue".

James agreed with that assessment as he downplayed the importance of the captaincy, adding: "They [LIV] are taking a lot of possible captains away. So we'll find other people to be captain, captain is not all-important. 

"The captain's position is drummed up to be incredibly important. But I think it's overrated, I always have done. 

"Every captain we have, over the last, certainly 15 odd years, everyone thinks they're just going a little extra mile to do something else and everything's a little better. 

"When you get out there on the turf and start playing against Americans, there's only one thing filling your mind, how much you want to beat the Americans, because this is a massive event and it's a huge thrill to play in it and be involved in it."

Padraig Harrington did not mince his words when discussing Henrik Stenson's decision to forfeit his Ryder Cup captaincy by joining LIV Golf, insisting he has "no empathy" for the Swede. 

Stenson is the latest big name to join the controversial circuit, with LIV Golf announcing the 46-year-old former major champion as one of three new recruits on Wednesday along with Jason Kokrak and Charles Howell III.

Just four months ago Stenson was awarded Europe's Ryder Cup captaincy ahead of the 2023 edition beginning in Italy next September, taking over the role from Harrington.

But Stenson was removed from the position in anticipation of his choice to join LIV on Wednesday.

When asked how he felt about the Swede's move, Harrington argued Stenson should have honoured his Ryder Cup commitment, while saying he understands why the average professional golfer might make the jump.

"I certainly empathise with anybody that makes the decisions that they have made in terms of going to play a new tour; the financial incentives are quite impressive," he said.

"I do think it's different in Henrik's case, yes. He signed a contract not to do that and was specifically asked not to do that. I have no empathy there. 

"No, he took the Ryder Cup job when LIV was in doubt, and now that LIV is pretty much mainstream normalised, he's jumped ship."

Despite his disappointment, Harrington said Stenson's choice will have no real effect on Europe's Ryder Cup bid, with plenty of time remaining to select a new captain.

"It is 15 months, plenty of time," he said. "No issue as regards the actual team and, like, there's been nothing set in place about the selection processes or qualification processes. 

"Really doesn't affect the Ryder Cup in any shape or form. I'm sure we'll have a new captain installed pretty soon."

 

Henrik Stenson has been stripped of the captaincy of Europe's Ryder Cup team ahead of his reportedly imminent switch to LIV Golf.

Stenson was appointed as Padraig Harrington's successor for the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome back in March.

However, having said to have been swayed by a lucrative offer from the controversial Saudi-backed breakaway tour, Stenson will now not lead Europe in their bid to regain the cup.

The 2016 Open champion was reported to have held talks with Ryder Cup Europe on Tuesday.

Yet those discussions did not conclude positively, with a statement from Ryder Cup Europe reading: "Ryder Cup Europe today confirms that Henrik Stenson's tenure as Captain of Team Europe for the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome, Italy from September 25 – October 1, 2023, has been brought to an end with immediate effect.

"In light of decisions made by Henrik in relation to his personal circumstances, it has become clear that he will not be able to fulfil certain contractual obligations to Ryder Cup Europe that he had committed to prior to his announcement as Captain on Tuesday March 15, 2022, and it is therefore not possible for him to continue in the role of Captain.

"Confirmation of the new 2023 European Ryder Cup Captain will be made in due course. Ryder Cup Europe will be making no further comment on any aspect of the process until that time."

LIV Golf will reveal the identities of another three players who have signed up "in the next few days".

Cameron Smith did not rule out making the move to LIV Golf after winning his first major with a sensational final round at The Open on Sunday.



 

LIV Golf will reveal the identities of another three players who have signed up to the breakaway series "in the next few days".

Cameron Smith did not rule out making the move to LIV Golf after winning his first major with a sensational final round at The Open on Sunday.

The Australian snapped at a reporter at St Andrews when asked if he could defect to LIV, saying: "I just won the British Open and you're asking about that? I think that's not that good."

When asked again, he said: "I don't know, mate. My team around me worries about all that stuff. I'm here to win golf tournaments."

Henrik Stenson is expected to join the Saudi-backed series, a decision that is set to see the Swede be stripped of his role as Europe's Ryder Cup captain.

Hideki Matsuyama, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman and Bubba Watson have also been linked with switches to LIV Golf.

Paul Casey will make his debut in the LIV Golf Invitational Bedminster, an event staged from July 29-31 at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster.

 

The U.S. Open will allow players competing in the LIV Golf Invitational Series to feature this year, but that may not be the case in future.

That is the message from USGA chief executive Mike Whan, who has defended the decision to grant LIV Golf players the chance to compete at this year's U.S. Open.

Charl Schwartzel won the inaugural LIV Golf event in London last week, pocketing $4.75million, but the tournament was filled with controversy as the PGA Tour announced their punishment for the breakaway stars.

Tour commissioner Jay Monahan confirmed the 17 members who were playing in the first LIV Golf event would be banned, including Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia.

Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm have been vocal supporters of the Tour's decision, alongside Justin Thomas as the saga overshadows the U.S Open.

Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed have also joined the controversial Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway, with the pair already aware of the consequences of their decision.

But the USGA announced those featuring in the LIV Golf tournament at the Centurion Club would still be able to play at The Country Club in Brookline for the third major of the season.

Whan was quick to explain the USGA's decision as the U.S. Open prepares to start on Thursday.

"We [the USGA] definitely feel responsibility to this game, and we feel a responsibility to the competitors that play it. We did sit down and have a long conversation about a week before the U.S. Open," he said.

"Did where somebody else played and what promoter they played it with disqualify them for this event? We decided no on that, with all the awareness that not everyone would agree with that decision.

"Whether we all like it or not, in February 30 guys played for the same promoter in Saudi Arabia with an acceptable release from the PGA Tour, and for years the DP World Tour has had an event there, same promoter.

"I'm sure there are players that both came through our qualifying and maybe teeing it up that are sponsored by those different – so we asked ourselves the question: one week before, if you play somewhere where you're not approved to play, would you be disqualified for the 2022 U.S. Open?

"We said no. And we also had to ask the question, if you're going to put that kind of clause in, who gets in? It becomes a pretty slippery slope to try to apply that across 9,300 people."

Pressed on whether the decision may change in future, Whan added: "Yeah, I could foresee a day. Do I know what that day looks like? No, I don't.

"To be honest with you, what we're talking about was different two years ago, and it was different two months ago than it is today.

"I think everybody else that we work with needs to take a long-term view of this and see where these things go.

"We're not going to show a knee-jerk reaction to kind of what we do. But the question was, could you envision a day where it would be harder for some folks doing different things to get into a US Open? I could. Will that be true? I don't know, but I can definitely foresee that day.

"I think it would be a lot of hypotheticals for me to get what LIV is going to be by the time we're talking about this next year, but as we would do any year, we're going to definitely re-evaluate field criteria.

"We would any year. We will take a look at what the landscape looks like."

Jon Rahm says he is unsurprised by the amount of big-name golfers participating in the LIV Golf series given the financial rewards on offer, but sees more "meaning" in competing for historic prizes on the PGA Tour.

The Saudi-backed LIV Golf series, which held its first event in London last weekend with victor Charl Schwartzel pocketing $4.75million as the inaugural winner, has attracted several the game's biggest names by offering eye-watering prize sums.

The likes of Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia are among those to have signed up to the new circuit, with players participating in the first LIV event having been suspended by the PGA Tour last week.

Other stars, including Rory McIlroy, have made their opposition to the new tour clear, with the four-time major winner claiming on Tuesday it will "fracture" the sport.

And while world number two Rahm respects other players' decisions to feature in the breakaway competition, he simply does not see the appeal.

Speaking ahead of the U.S. Open, defending champion Rahm explained that he sees more "meaning" in competing with the world's best players in historic competitions on the PGA Tour.

"I mean, hundreds of millions of dollars are a pretty good damn reason for people to decide and go, and I see a lot of comments that's regarding it, but the high majority of the population, if they offered you 100 million or more for the next four years, a lot of people would go, right?" he said. 

"I'm not surprised at the number of players that went. I do see the appeal that other people see towards LIV Golf.

"[But] to be honest, part of the format is not really appealing to me. I want to play against the best in the world in a format that's been going on for hundreds of years. 

"There's meaning when you win the Memorial Championship. There's meaning when you win Arnold Palmer's event at Bay Hill. There's a meaning when you win, [at] LA, Torrey, some of the historic venues. That to me matters a lot.

"My heart is with the PGA Tour. That's all I can say. It's not my business or my character to judge anybody who thinks otherwise."

Rahm also added that the financial rewards on offer on the new tour – headed up by chief executive Greg Norman – would not change his mind.

"Truth be told, I could retire right now with what I've made and live a very happy life and not play golf again," the 27-year-old said. 

"I've never really played the game of golf for monetary reasons. I play for the love of the game, and I want to play against the best in the world. I've always been interested in history and legacy, and right now the PGA Tour has that."

Rahm's compatriot Garcia, meanwhile, joined Johnson in resigning his membership of the PGA Tour last month.

While Rahm says Garcia's decision is none of his concern, he hopes the split will not impact players' chances of competing at the Ryder Cup.

"[It's] not my business," he added. "He has given golf, [the] European Tour and the PGA Tour 20, 25 years of his life. It's his decision. It's not my job to judge. 

"That's all I can say. I don't know what's going to happen. I think the one thing that keeps coming to me out of all this and what can happen… I hope the Ryder Cup doesn't suffer.

"Are they going to be able to play Ryder Cup or not, the players that went? In my mind, Sergio, even if he is not breaking 90, he's a no-brainer pick, right? So what's going to happen? 

"You have quite a few young Americans. Bryson went, somebody that's probably going to be on the team in the future. 

"I think a week like that is a true essence of the game. That's where we all love to play."

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