Former Open champion Stewart Cink has questioned if Europe’s legendary “passion” for the Ryder Cup was all a sham and if some of the blue-and-gold heroes were “truthful” about their “love” for the tournament as the backlash to Saudi rebel Henrik Stenson being stripped of the captaincy continues to dominate the male game’s agenda.
Cink played in five Ryder Cups, winning only one, and was a part of that US generation lambasted for its consistent failure in the biennial dust-up and accused of not caring enough. But after hearing the news of Stenson’s defection - he joins teammates Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer - the American now finds himself doubting that well-worn theory that the opponents simply “wanted it more”.
“They thrived on their togetherness and their passion for the Ryder Cup, but now that they’ve gone to play elsewhere and basically turned down the Ryder Cup, it just makes me wonder how truthful they were being,” Cink told Golf Channel.
“Yeah, they played great, they were fabulous when they were on that heater [winning six out of seven matches from 2002-2014] but all this just makes me wonder if there might have been something else driving them other than passion for the Ryder Cup, because if it was that way, then they would still be playing on the European Tour and trying to qualify for the Ryder Cup.”
Cink played with Stenson two weeks ago at the Scottish Open and said he was stunned at the Swede’s decision to join the LIV Golf Series only 127 days after signing a contract that stipulated he would not do so on being appointed as Padraig Harrington’s successor for next year’s match in Rome.
“It just really throws me for a loop. I've played with Henrik lots of times and we're friends and I've played against him in the Ryder Cup and I know how passionate he is about it,” he said. “But I guess the opportunity to make a lot of money on another tour is a bigger deal than captaining in the Ryder Cup for Europe and I think that says an awful lot about where Henrik’s heart lies. There might be some stuff in the background we don't know, but I'm surprised that anybody would step down from their role as captain in the Ryder Cup. We're seeing a lot of precedents being set in the golf world right now and this is no exception.”
It is estimated that Europe captains can earn up to £4 million in their tenure through endorsements but Stenson, 46, has just signed a LIV deal with a £40m up-front payment. The father-of-two lost millions in the ponzi scheme conducted by jailed Allen Stanford and his finances have since further suffered in failed business dealings.
Despite signing the contract signifying he would not play on the LIV Series, Stenson, the 2016 Open champion, has described himself “hugely disappointed” that he was “not allowed to continue in the role” and has expressed his hope that he could still be part of future Ryder Cups.