As Henrik Stenson bows out, Ryder Cup will undoubtedly endure

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So long, Henrik. We barely knew ya.

Henrik Stenson’s Ryder Cup captaincy is officially over, really before it ever started. And now, Ryder Cup Europe is left scrambling to find a replacement.

While the decision to immediately end Stenson’s tenure as captain was chalked up to Stenson’s “personal circumstances,” Stenson later confirmed via a statement that he had become the latest player to accept millions and join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf league, just like several Ryder Cup stalwarts, such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia, had done before him. The only difference? None of those players had signed on to captain before being picked off by the rival circuit.

In Stenson’s contract with Ryder Cup Europe, he agreed to not support or promote “other properties,” including other tours and competitions. The decision to terminate his captaincy is clearly in response to Stenson’s breach of those terms. Stenson said he was "disappointed" and that he had previously made plans with LIV officials to be able to fulfill both obligations, if allowed, but he also accepted his fate.

"I have huge respect and admiration for the Ryder Cup and those individuals behind it who I know are doing their utmost to act in the best interests of the historic event," Stenson said.

Many, of course, will criticize Stenson for what Brooks Koepka once described as “selling out” and backing out of his commitment. When Stenson was announced as captain back in March, he had talked about doing "everything in his power" to win back the Cup, the "goosebumps" that he gets every time he puts on the team uniform, the importance of his appointment to his home country of Sweden. "When I started out as a professional golfer, it was beyond my wildest dreams that, one day, I would follow in the footsteps of legends of the game such as Seve and be the European Ryder Cup captain," Stenson said at the time. "But today proves that, sometimes, dreams do come true."

Others will applaud Stenson for stiff-arming the establishment and doing what he feels is best for he and his family. Stenson himself admitted his decision was, at least partly, "commercially driven."

A third faction may even feel indifferent, seeing merit on both sides.

Regardless of what people think, this much is certain: Stenson, barring something unforeseen, won’t be at Marco Simone in September 2023.

Stenson loses Ryder Cup captaincy amid LIV buzz

But what effect will Stenson’s dismissal have on the biennial matches?

The Ryder Cup will undoubtedly endure.

Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas and Co. will still lead the Americans into Italy, and Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm will remain Europe’s mainstays tasked with heading a home defense.

Someone, perhaps Thomas Bjorn, the 2018 winning captain, or Luke Donald, who was in the running for 2023, will replace Stenson as captain.

Thousands of fans will still pack Marco Simone, cheer their hearts out and buy plenty of beer.

And for every player that forfeits his possible spot on a team, another player – maybe even one with a little more personality (i.e. Sahith Theegala and Bob MacIntyre) to make up for the drop-off in playing credentials – will fill their shoes and cherish the opportunity of representing their country.

There’s a reason that, despite not getting paid for their participation, players consider making a Ryder Cup team one of the pinnacles of their careers. There's a reason the most recent U.S. captain, Steve Stricker, didn't just cry after winning the Cup last year at Whistling Straits but also after receiving the honor of captain. There's a reason McIlroy, after losing in Wisconsin, did the same.

It’s a competition that transcends professional golf.

It’s bigger than any one player.

Sure, the game’s best, from Seve to Jack, have provided us so many Ryder Cup memories. But so, too, have guys like Poulter, whose career has been defined more by his clutch performances for Team Europe than what he’s done individually.

Stenson will be missed at next year’s Ryder Cup. As will Mickelson, and DJ, and Poulter, and Bryson DeChambeau; the list goes on. Many from the pro-PGA Tour crop, especially Rahm, have made it known that they don’t have any ill will toward those who have left for LIV and that they're wishful that an amicable resolution can be reached. It’s evident, judging by receptions at recent major championships, that many fans aren’t prepared to vilify those defectors, either.

But those same fans will also root on whomever shows up in Italy to compete for their side. It just might be Cameron Young sinking a potential winning putt instead of Koepka. Still, it will be a winning putt, nonetheless.