Henrik Stenson ready to 'put on the big shoes' if asked to be Ryder Cup captain

Henrik Stenson is happy to be “part of the conversation” about Europe’s next Ryder Cup captain after the 2016 Open champion became one of the leading contenders.

After being vice captains at Whistling Straits in September, Henrik Stenson, Luke Donald and Robert Karlsson are now the three names in the frame for the 2023 Ryder Cup captaincy. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

Following Lee Westwood’s announcement that he isn’t ready to commit the necessary time to the role at a stage where he is still in the world’s top 50, Stenson is now in the frame along with fellow Swede Robert Karlsson and Englishman Luke Donald.

Like Westwood, Stenson still feels he can be competitive at the top level and perhaps even have one more playing appearance in the biennial event in him, having already faced the Americans five times.

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But, after getting his first taste of being a vice-captain for Padraig Harrington in this year’s match at Whistling Straits, the 45-year-old is not ruling out the possibility of him taking on the captaincy in the 2023 edition in Rome.

Speaking in the Bahamas, where he is the defending champion in this week’s Hero World Challenge, Stenson said: “Like a lot of people, I thought Lee was going to be next in line, but I had heard that he now wants to focus on his own game and feels like it is going to be too much of a clash at this point in his career and the timeframe.

“We’ll see what happens, but I have certainly got some experience as a vice captain and we’ll see if we need to put on the big shoes in the future. It’s still early to tell on that, but it’s good to be part of the conversation.

“I feel like if I can get my came to where I want it to be and where it can be, I can have another Ryder Cup in me. We’ll just have to see if we can make it happen. When was the last time we had a playing captain (laughing).”

Stenson was speaking soon after he’d been included on a list of confirmed players for the Saudi International in early February despite a report last week suggesting that PGA Tour and European Tour players could face sanctions if they teed up in the Asian Tour event without an official release.

Henrik Stenson poses with the trophy after winning the 2019 Hero World Challenge at Albany in the Bahamas. The Swede is back there this week as defending champion. Picture: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.

Rory McIlroy, who is not playing in Saudi, said on Wednesday that he believed players should be given such a release on the basis of them being “independent contractors” and Stenson was happy to share why his name is on the list for this particular event.

“A lot of the players you saw announced have either had agreements to go back and play even before we knew it was going to be on the same week as a European Tour event,” he said, referring to the new Ras Al Khaimah Championship. “You have players who signed up for multiple years a year back or so who have a commitment to go back there and play.

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“It is one of those situations and I can only say that I had an arrangement to go back and play. It’s been a good tournament on the schedule (it was held for the first three years on the European Tour) and it fitted in once again on my schedule.

“I will fulfil my commitment to go and play there and what happens in terms of the tour, who knows? You can’t be in two places at the same time, I found that out a long time ago (laughing) and it was always going to be a conflict of interest when that one was put up against the Saudi International.”

Does he consider himself to be an independent contractor? “Yeah, to a degree,” said the man who became the first Scandinavian player to win a men’s major after coming out on top in a sensational battle with Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon to get his hands on the Claret Jug.

“We kind of make up our own schedules. There are certain rules and regulations in terms of how many tournaments we can play. The tours around the world have different views on that and different criteria.

“I think it’s been 15 on the PGA Tour for many years and on the European Tour it was 11 then went up to 13 with the WGCs and majors included and I ended up in an interesting situation in 2012.

“I was fully exempt for both tours but I wasn’t in the top 50 in the world so wasn’t in the majors of WGCs and that became a back-bender to try and get my numbers in.

“Four or five years ago on the European Tour, it was cut to just four or five regular tournaments and playing in your home Open helps keep that number down.

“I can see both points of view, but I don’t have a perfect answer on it. The numbers are set for a reason, but the debate in terms of the Saudi International would be if I still play my four would it be a problem playing another one elsewhere?”

With Greg Norman, in his new role as LIV Golf Investments, having $200 million in his pocket to pump into the game through the Asian Tour and that possibly involving a new Golf Super League, there are concerns that golf is set for a spell of divisions that could get messy

“Yeah, we all know things that are kind of in the making,” said Stenson of Norman’s Saudi Arabia-backed plans. “As a player, you can only focus on your game. But it could be interesting times going forward.

“There’s been things in the making for a long time, though, and whether we are getting closer to that point now and what the outcome will be, we will just have to wait and see.”

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