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Henrik Stenson calls LIV debut ‘best I’ve played all year’ days after Ryder Cup captaincy stripping

Tone-deaf Henrik Stenson calls LIV Golf debut ‘the best I’ve played all year’ just a week after being ousted as Ryder Cup captain for defecting to the Saudi-backed organization

  • Henrik Stenson hit seven under par at Bedminster in his LIV Golf debut
  • The world’s number 173 received £40 million to participate in the Saudi-backed golf series
  • The 46-year-old was subsequently stripped of his Ryder Cup captaincy
  • Stenson was delighted to perform at his first LIV Golf event

There was no escaping the stench of irony as Henrik Stenson stood in front of the microphones Friday night, reflecting on his first 18 holes as a paid member of the golf rebel cause.

“It’s the best I’ve played all year,” said Stenson after a seven-under-par 64 at Bedminster, which left him part of the lead. Not bad for the number 173 in the world. Not bad for a 46-year-old who hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since 2017.

It was all rather comical as actually LIV Golf didn’t pay £40 million for Stenson to win tournaments. His defection was a naked provocation of the old order of golf, an ominous statement that proved that even the Ryder Cup captaincy couldn’t prevent players from being lured across the sport’s gaping fault lines.

Stenson himself made no mention of title hunting during his opening press conference earlier this week. He admitted that money played a part in his decision.

The Swede also claimed that the team aspect of LIV Golf was one of the attractions. In New Jersey, he is part of ‘Majesticks’ along with Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter.

“I’ve golfed with these guys for over 20 years, so getting to work with them this week is something I’m looking forward to,” said Stenson. “We’ve always had a lot of fun together and I can imagine it will continue to be.”

Stenson, Poulter and Westwood hope so, as this move has jeopardized their future in golf’s most cherished team event.

Henrik Stenson called his inaugural performance at LIV Golf the best he played 'all year'

Henrik Stenson called his inaugural performance at LIV Golf the best he played ‘all year’

Stenson was paid £40 million to take part in the Saudi-backed series and his decision resulted in him being removed as captain of the European Ryder Cup team

Stenson was paid £40 million to take part in the Saudi-backed series and his decision resulted in him being removed as captain of the European Ryder Cup team

Together they have made a rich history in Ryder Cup matches between Europe and the US. But so far battles between Iron Heads, Majesticks and Fireballs have been lost in LIV’s festival of greed.

The concept seems to be just another afterthought—an excuse to add another $5 million to the prize pool—in a project where golf is just an afterthought.

However, this week has made it clear that LIV sees their team competition as a vital point of difference, an innovation that will help sustain this breakout when the initial intrigue begins to wane.

Time and again, players at Bedminster have incorporated it into their answers. Take Phil Mickelson on Friday. “I notice how people like to identify with a team rather than just individuals,” he said. “That’s something I don’t quite understand, how big that can be.”

Stenson is part of LIV Golf's Majesticks alongside Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter

Stenson is part of LIV Golf’s Majesticks alongside Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter

Luke Donald is announced as Stenson's successor as Europe's Ryder Cup captain

Luke Donald is announced as Stenson’s successor as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain

Patrick Reed added: ‘Team golf is always great, always fun. I can go out and play for something other than myself, I play for my teammates.”

It doesn’t help that team members are currently being shuffled as the cast list changes.

Next year, LIV will expand to a competition of 14 tournaments with 12 permanent teams. The hope is that eventually these teams will become a way to bring in money, rather than another excuse to pump it out.

LIV plans to sell the teams — just like in Formula 1 — and convert them into brands, where “equity is in the hands of the league and the players.”

‘Teams are valued, teams are sold. We are introducing that concept in golf’, explains LIV chief Atul Khosla.

Until then, this is a long way from the world – and the teams – that Stenson has left behind.

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