In what appears to be a declaration of war, Greg Norman’s Saudi golf league has signed Ryder Cup captain Henrik Stenson. He announced Wednesday that he would be joining the new tour, although he expressed that he wanted to continue to play DP World Tour events. He’s obviously out as Europe’s captain for next year — when he was elected to the captaincy, he signed a contract that banned him from playing in any tours aside from the PGA and the DP World, which he is no longer honoring after today.
I’m certainly not the first to point this out and I won’t be the last, but Stenson isn’t exactly a huge grab. He doesn’t exactly bring in viewers. He’s already 46 years old and he last won a single major tournament back in 2016, so all of this feels like explicit poaching of a Ryder Cup captain in an attempt to severely disrupt the existing leagues and structures. If the Saudis had been playing their version of nice up until now, that’s done. It seems that they want to undermine the PGA and DP World Tours as well as the very state of the sport, and they’re using Stenson as a tool to do that in a power play against one of the most important events in golf.
The Ryder Cup European Team has already lost Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, and Lee Westwood to the Saudi Golf League. In a (very) lengthy statement that Stenson put out today, he admitted that the move was, in part, “commercially driven,” which is a nice way to say that they gave him more money than he’s probably worth, but added on all that bullshit about growing the game and the new format and all those good talking points. He also said that he’s confident that “LIV golf… will be a force for good” — how that may come to be is as of yet unclear, as this has from the very beginning been a very obvious attempt at sportswashing the country’s human rights record.
He’ll be playing at the upcoming tournament in Bedminster next weekend, and Europe is now on the hunt for a new captain — preferably one who won’t jump ship this time.