Henrik Stenson 'super excited' to be Europe's new Ryder Cup captain

Former Open champion Henrik Stenson is Europe’s new Ryder Cup captain, becoming the first Swede to hold the prestigious post.

The 45-year-old, who has bags of Ryder Cup experience, will lock horns with recently-appointed US captain Zach Johnson in next year’s match at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome.

Stenson, who became the first Swede to win a men’s major when he beat Phil Mickelson in a titanic tussle over the final two days at Royal Troon in 2016, has played in the biennial event five times.

Three of those appearances were on triumphant teams, holing the winning putt on his debut at The K Club in 2006 before also playing his part in victories at Gleneagles in 2014 then Le Golf National in Paris four years later.

Henrik Stenson has been named as Europe's 2023 Ryder Cup captain and will be the first Swede to hold the post. Picture: Getty Images

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In a rare disappointment in the event, he was one of Padraig Harrington’s assistant captains for last year’s heavy defeat at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

Stenson has been handed the task of trying to win the trophy back by a five-man selection panel comprising the three most recent European captains – Harrington, Thomas Bjørn and Darren Clarke - as well as Keith Pelley, chief executive of the European Tour group, and DP World Tour tournament committee chairman David Howell.

“I am absolutely thrilled and delighted to be the European Ryder Cup captain,” said Stenson. “It is a huge honour and I was humbled to get the call confirming the news. I'm super, super excited for the journey ahead.”

The Gothenburg man, who has recorded 21 professional wins worldwide, had become the obvious candidate once Lee Westwood ruled himself out of the reckoning to concentrate on his playing career after a resurgence in form.

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The picture only became a bit blurred due to Stenson, along with Westwood and Ian Poulter, being linked to the proposed Saudi Super League and little being said, at least in public, about that by him in recent weeks.

But, having obviously decided to reject the chance to join Greg Norman’s breakaway circuit, the 2016 Open champion cleared any obstacles standing in the way of his appointment.

Nine Swedes have played in the Ryder Cup, the trail having been blazed by Joakim Haeggman in 1993. “I feel like this is also for them,” said the new captain. “Sweden has played a big part in the Ryder Cup history, so to be able to accept this captaincy, it also goes back to the players that have been before me.”

In a conference call, Stenson wasted no time charming the Italians by dropping in the odd “ciao” and “grazie”. He said of the event’s first visit to Rome: “I think it's got the potential to be the best Ryder Cup ever.

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“The City of Rome has so much to offer. I think we can make it really, really special. The European fans will travel in from near and far as we know; add to that the very passionate Italian fans, and I think we've got really the right mix.

“Very excited to start thinking ahead to that. It's 564 days until that, but it's still in the back of our mind how great it's going to be.”

Stenson was given the nod over fellow major winner Paul Lawrie, former world No 1 Luke Donald and his Swedish compatriot, Robert Karlsson.

Guy Kinnings, the European Ryder Cup director, said: “Henrik has all the qualities to be a great captain. He has an incredibly impressive golfing CV as a major champion, two-time European No 1 and FedEx Cup winner, and in the Ryder Cup he played five times and played with distinction, including holing the winning putt in 2006 at The K Club.

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“So he comes with all the credibility of what he has achieved, and as we all know a dry a sense of humour and a fantastic warm personality, but he is also a ferocious competitor. He is hugely respected by the players and admired by everyone involved with the game and the Ryder Cup.”

While he may have a boyish smile, the Ice Man is a fierce competitor, as Mickelson discovered in their epic duel on the Ayrshire coast in the game’s oldest major six years ago.

And, though an assistant captain rather than a player on that occasion, he’ll still be hurting from Europe’s record 19-9 hammering in Wisconsin last September.

“I know my players are going to be up for a challenge,” said Stenson, who has still to decide on the identity of his vice captains and the number of wildcards he’ll have at his disposal. “We saw a very strong American team at Whistling Straits. But we also saw that coming into Paris (where the Europeans ran out comfortable 17.5-10.5 winners).

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“We're going to spend these 564 days to prepare the best we can, and we are going to be ready for that challenge in Rome in September next year.”

Stenson’s side will definitely include Norway’s Viktor Hovland and possibly Denmark’s Hojgaard twins - Nicolai and Rasmus - as well. They’ll all connect instantly with the new captain due to their geographical backgrounds.

“I want to be a players' captain,” said Stenson. “I think they are going to get Henrik. I don't see myself changing that much.

“They are the important thing. I want to make sure they are comfortable. We are going to use the experience that we have in the team with everyone that works with Ryder Cup on the European side, and we'll just bring that experience and that bond together.

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“I'm there for the players. They can call me at my time and I will make sure to be in good contact with them as well throughout this journey.”

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