Henrik Stenson criticised by Padraig Harrington after losing Ryder Cup captaincy

Henrik Stenson has been criticised by his predecessor, Padraig Harrington, after reneging on a contract and, as a consequence, being stripped of Europe’s Ryder Cup captaincy.

Henrik Stenson kisses the Ryder Cup after being appointed as Europe's captaon in March. Picture: Hailey Garrett/Getty Images.
Henrik Stenson kisses the Ryder Cup after being appointed as Europe's captaon in March. Picture: Hailey Garrett/Getty Images.

The 2016 Open champion became the first Swede to take up the prestigious post in March, since when he’d appointed Thomas Bjorn and Edoardo Molinari as vice-captains for the 2023 match in Rome.

But, amidst rumours that he’d been lined up to become one of the latest recruits for Greg Norman’s Saudi-backed breakaway LIV Golf circuit, Stenson’s captaincy has been ended.

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Speaking at Gleneagles, where he is playing in this week’s Senior Open, Harrington, who had been involved in the selection process that led to Stenson getting the nod ahead of Luke Donald and Paul Lawrie, didn’t hold back when asked about that situation.

Henrik Stenson and vice-captains Thomas Bjorn and Edoardo Molinari. Picture: Getty Images

“I certainly empathise with anybody who has made the decisions they’ve made, going to play a new tour, when the financial incentives are quite impressive,” said the three-time major winner of the Saudis throwing pots of money at players to join the Greg Norman-fronted circuit.

“I do think it’s different in Henrik’s case. He signed a contract not to do that, he was specifically asked not to do that. So, no empathy there.

“He took the Ryder Cup job when LIV was in doubt. Now LIV is pretty much mainstream normalised, he’s jumped ship.”

Harrington and the two captains before him - Thomas Bjorn and Darren Clarke - picked Stenson along with DP World Tour chief executive Keith Pelley and David Howell, chairman of the tournament players’ committee.

Asked if he’d felt let down by Stenson, Harrington said: “I’m not going to go into the detail of the actual selection and the committee. I’m not going to go through how we came about our decisions.

“The tour will tell you he had a signed contract. I suppose he could say if there were more commitments asked. But it’s different when you sign up to do something and he wanted to take something on when LIV looked like it wasn't going to happen.

“Now LIV is pretty close to mainstream, there’s certainly less risk in joining that tour, he’s gone over. I know it’s a financial decision and we’re all here to make money and things like that, but there is an element of signing up to do something. And as much as it might not suit him now.

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“Financially, being the Ryder Cup captain in Europe is very lucrative, obviously it’s better to go over to LIV. But sometimes when you sign up to something you have to accept you made a decision at the time and you’ve got to stick with it. He’s done what he said he wouldn’t do.”

Stenson’s short stint as captain was ended following talks on Tuesday with both Pelley and Guy Kinnings, Ryder Cup Europe director.

A statement said: “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.”

Clarke also offered his reaction at Gleneagles, where he is playing in this week’s Senior Open as well. “It’s obviously disappointing that Henrik is no longer going to be Ryder Cup captain. He clearly has his reasons. And good luck to him,” said the 2011 Open champion.

“As for the process to find who will replace him, I was part of the last committee. I’m not sure if they will have the same committee again so that we can take a look at candidates and go through the same process.”

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Paul McGinley, the winning captain at Gleneagles in 2014, when Stenson was one of his players, was also back at the Perthshire venue as the news broke.

“I feel a bond with Henrik through all the times we’ve played together in Ryder Cups and particular when I captained him. He was an awesome player for me, one of the stars of the team, both on and off the course,” said McGinley.

“I’m sure this was not an easy decision for him. But, ultimately, he has made that decision. It’s something that disappoints me. But I can understand. I’m not going to come down on any of the guys who have gone to LIV. They’ve been offered huge amounts of money.

“For Henrik, it’s life-changing at this stage of his career. It’s unlikely he is ever going to earn that kind of money going forward. So I can understand.

“But is he doing it to revolutionise a game that needs to be changed? No. He’s doing it for money. I’m sure he’s not going to come out of this looking good, but that is for others to judge, not me.

“I had a great relationship with as a captain and a player over the years. So I’m not going to slam him for making a judgement call. Everyone is entitled to their own view of things. But this is incredibly disappointing for the Ryder Cup. There is no doubt about that.”

Also speaking on the practice range at Gleneagles ahead of the season’s final over-50s major, Colin Montgomerie, the 2010 captain, said: “It is a very sad day for European golf.”

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