Henrik Stenson has confirmed that he will join the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf series and says he is “disappointed” to be losing Europe’s Ryder Cup captaincy as a result of his decision.
Stenson was stripped of the captaincy earlier on Wednesday amid speculation that he was set to join the breakaway tour, leaving Europe’s preparations in turmoil ahead of next September’s contest in Rome.
The 46-year-old Swede, who previously claimed that captaining Europe was a “dream” and insisted that he was “fully committed” to the team, said it was clear that his decision had been, in part, “commercially driven”.
Stenson, who won the Open in 2016 and is a two-time European player of the year, will feature in the third LIV Golf event next week in Bedminster, New Jersey, where prize money at single events stands at a total of £20 million.
In a statement, Stenson said: “Unfortunately my decision to play in LIV events has triggered Ryder Cup Europe to communicate that it is not possible for me to continue in my role as Ryder Cup captain.
“This is despite me making specific arrangements with LIV golf, who have been supportive of my role as captain, to ensure I could fulfil the obligations of the captaincy. While I disagree with this decision, for now it is a decision that I accept.
“I am hugely disappointed to not be allowed to continue in my role but wish you all the best in your ongoing preparations.”
The inclusion of the words “for now” in the statement leave Stenson’s meaning open to interpretation.
Fellow LIV rebels, led by the likes of Ian Poulter, successfully challenged in court a decision by the DP World Tour, formerly the European Tour, to ban them from playing in the Scottish Open earlier this month.
Stenson was named as captain in March and the DP World Tour, had issued warnings that any player to sign up for the lucrative LIV Golf would not be eligible to participate in the Ryder Cup.
And, after discussions with Ryder Cup Europe officials, the decision was made to effectively sack him as captain
Poulter, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Graeme McDowell, who were all potential future Ryder Cup captains as stalwarts of the European team, are also ineligble after joining LIV Golf ahead of its first event in St Albans last month.
Stenson added: “Clearly a part of my decision to play in LIV golf events has been commercially driven but the format, schedule and calibre of player were also significant factors. I am committed to growing the game and using the game as a force for good.”
Former skipper Thomas Bjorn, who led them to victory at Le Golf National in Paris in 2018, is already on the team after Stenson selected him as his first vice-captain.
Promoting him back to the top job would seem the most straightforward option, with the event only 14 months away.
Italian Edoardo Molinari, who, alongside his brother Francesco, was part of the victorious 2010 at Celtic Manor in Wales, is also a vice-captain, but it would seem too big a step at this stage for him to take over.
Luke Donald, who was pipped to the appointment by Stenson, is another option who could be parachuted in.
Additional reporting by PA