Henrik Stenson wins first LIV Tour event since defecting and stripped of Ryder Cup captaincy

Henrik Stenson wins first LIV Tour event after defecting and stripped of Ryder Cup captaincy - GETTY IMAGES

Henrik Stenson wins first LIV Tour event after defecting and stripped of Ryder Cup captaincy – GETTY IMAGES

Henrik Stenson’s decision last week to join the Saudi Arabian rebel ring and thereby force Ryder Cup Europe to strip him of his captaincy was highly controversial. However, no one can dispute that it was also wildly profitable, with extremely fast returns.

By winning his first LIV event here, Stenson, 46, added £3.3m to the £40m he received to break the contract he signed to lead his continent into next year’s Ryder Cup.

There was another £305,000, his share of the runners-up here, but that’s such a large sum it doesn’t seem worth guiding (although that eight per cent of his payday is still more than what the Sean Crocker to win his first DP World Tour title on Sunday).

In the last fortnight, the Swede has not quite doubled his career earnings, but he has come close and considering the fact that the 2016 Open champion earned £10m in two months in 2013 – having won both the PGA Tour and end of European Tour- season bonus – this is nothing short of ridiculous.

But then, in a tie for sixth, Westwood took almost £1m after his team’s earnings along with Stenson were also taken into account. At 49, the England veteran can hardly believe his good fortune and certainly no one should question why he plays LIV.

Stenson’s timing was certainly invaluable as he carded a 69 for an 11-under total to beat Americans Matthew Wolff and Dustin Johnson by two strokes. “I was playing like a captain,” Stenson said with a smile.

On Monday Luke Donald will be officially announced as Stenson’s replacement and the Englishman is sure to be questioned about his statement, “I’m not going to do a Henrik”. But “doing a Henrik” definitely has another level of meaning. Would you go back on your word of closing on £45m in 12 days?

Regardless, Stenson remains bitter about his treatment by the Tour, who quickly removed him from the role when he revealed he was signing for Greg Norman’s business. Unsurprisingly, Stenson has been supported by his fellow Rebels, who agree there was no reason he shouldn’t be allowed to continue the job while appearing in the breakaway league.

Conveniently, this ignores his signing of that contract which essentially stipulated that he would not participate in LIV. “It was a bitter and mean-spirited move,” said David Feherty, the former Ulster Ryder Cup player who is now an analyst for LIV. “Henrik came here with something to prove.”

Henrik Stenson wins event in New Jersey in two strokes - GETTY IMAGES

Henrik Stenson wins event in New Jersey in two strokes – GETTY IMAGES

If it proved anything, it’s that there’s life in this old threewood and it can still forge great iron shots. This is his first title since December 2019 and although the former world No 2’s ranking will remain outside the top 170 – LIV events are still waiting to see if his events are approved for the world rankings – there was so much consolation . just enough pockets in New Jersey to fill it.

Stenson’s wire-to-wire return capped off another strange and tumultuous week for LIV, but the series is set to remain eerily quiet for a few weeks as it takes a month-long break between events three and four.

But while the PGA Tour may be rejoicing in the lull in hostilities as it stages its £60m end-of-season play-offs, the warning from business Greg Norman is that in the final week of August the big-name exodus will reach a new level of controversy.

“There’s more to come,” said Norman. “Put it this way, we wouldn’t have announced earlier about the start of the league next year if there wasn’t a very clear indicator of how solid we feel about the players we’re going to have next year.”

With big names such as Hideki Matsuyama and Open champion Cam Smith constantly being rumoured, as well as many other high-profile competitors, there is a growing theory that a heavyweight series will be announced after the Tour Championship – which will see the winner of the FedEx walk away with £15m – on August 28 and then after the Presidents Cup on September 25 as well.

The LIV campaign culminates Oct. 28-31 at another Trump rally. Doral – Miami’s annual stop on the PGA Tour from 1962 to 2016 – will host the £40m team’s pinnacle, and after that experience there’s no doubt the former President will be in attendance.

The 76-year-old has been here throughout this 54-year-old and has drawn bigger crowds than the players themselves, with several hundred gathering outside the clubhouse to occasionally catch a glimpse of Trump while chanting “four more years”. At times, this felt less like an athletic contest and more like a political rally.

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