Schupak: Henrik Stenson will regret walking away from Ryder Cup captaincy for money

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Say it ain’t so, Henrik, say it ain’t so.

You, too, are headed to LIV Golf? And surrendering your captaincy for Team Europe? Rumor became official Wednesday.

Of all the flip-flops, this is the toughest one to swallow because Stenson effectively admitted that the money – a reported $40 million up front – is worth more than his legacy and the prestige of being captain for the one event where money is never the concern.

Beloved for his deadpan humor and practical jokes, Stenson, 46, has won a major, a Players, a Tour Championship and a silver medal at the Olympics during a career filled with highs and lows. Along the way, he lost his game and a sizeable fortune not once but twice.

From the beginning, he was an easy target for LIV Golf, which provided a sudden chance for Stenson to regain much of his personal fortune. First, he was a victim in a ponzi scheme in 2009 by his sponsor Stanford Financial. Golfers rejoiced when Stenson won the 2013 Tour Championship and FedEx Cup and was financially secure once more, but then he got bamboozled again and so one of the most fascinating elements of the Saudis showering obscene amounts of money for over-the-hill golfers came down to what did Stenson value more: money or the chance to be Ryder Cup candidate?

With the likes of Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia, among others waiting in the wings as future captains, Stenson knew his time was now or never. He was rumored to be on the fence to jump to LIV, but then Phil Mickelson opened his big mouth and Stenson figured that LIV wouldn’t get off the ground for another year, if it ever did.

Remember how Rory McIlroy pronounced it dead in the water? Stenson went with the safe pick and decided to be Ryder Cup captain. He could drink for free in any pub or tavern anywhere in Europe if he brought the Cup back home when the biennial competition is staged in Rome in 2023.

Stenson’s appointment in March seemed to put to bed all the speculation that he could be bought. He was given a choice and he had made it.

“I am fully committed to the captaincy and to Ryder Cup Europe and the job at hand,” he said.

Henrik Stenson of Sweden poses for a portrait on March 14, 2022 in Orlando, after being named captain of the European team for the 2023 Ryder Cup. (Photo: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

He added that “The Ryder Cup is golf, and sport, at its very best. I got goosebumps every time I pulled on a European shirt as a player and that will be magnified in the role of Captain.”

He noted that the captain signs a contract with Ryder Cup Europe.

In the ensuing months, though, LIV Golf went from talk to reality. And the reality for Stenson is that his game is a shadow of its former self. He hasn’t recorded a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour since the 2019 U.S. Open and has made just 12 cuts in his last 36 starts since the beginning of the 2019-20 season. He was on pace to miss the FedEx Cup Playoffs again.

The Saudi money is like the sirens call in Greek mythology. What man can resist the allure of all that lucre? If someone offered you $40 million just to do your job, you’d be hard-pressed to turn it down. You’d also probably wonder what’s the catch.

It’s a sad day in the Ryder Cup for Stenson to walk away from being the first Swede to serve as captain of the European team. But he should never have accepted the job in the first place if he was just waiting for the Saudis to match his price. His word is about as good as the sport’s team owner who swears he won’t trade his star player before the trade deadline and then breaks a city’s heart by doing just that.

He tried to explain his side of the story in a four-paragraph tweet. As one of his followers replied, if your statement is that long there’s a part of you that believes what you’re doing is wrong.

“Henrik, just be honest, it was a bucket load of cash and you couldn’t resist it, like the rest of the guys,” tweeted English golfer Eddie Pepperell. “Will always love your game (especially those mid-irons!) but what a disappointing thing to do.”

It’s a tremendously awkward and bad look for the DP World Tour, who really have one chip to play – join LIV and you’re out of the Ryder Cup – and apparently even that isn’t stopping Stenson, who had won $32 million on the PGA Tour and another $30 million on the European Tour, from fleeing for easy money.

It’s shameless.

“He could have waited 15 months,” Padraig Harrington told Sky Sports on Wednesday.

Then again Stenson wouldn’t have been as attractive to LIV. Greg Norman surely loves that he’s thrown the Ryder Cup into disarray. But the Ryder Cup is bigger than anyone person and soon someone who truly is fully committed to the captaincy will be named to step in as a replacement.

Here’s hoping Stenson has found some better handlers for his money but know this: no matter what Talor Gooch may say, Stenson will never experience goosebumps playing for the Majestiks like he did wearing the European shirt at the Ryder Cup.

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Rory McIlroy and seven more options to replace Henrik Stenson as European Ryder Cup captain after LIV Golf move

2018 Ryder Cup
2018 Ryder Cup