Henrik Stenson’s decision last week to join the Saudi rebel circle, all but forcing Ryder Cup Europe to strip him of the captaincy, was highly controversial. But no one can deny that it was also outrageously lucrative, with a remarkably quick return on investment.
By winning his debut LIV event here, Stenson, 46, added £3.3million to the £40million he was awarded for breaking the deal he had signed to take his continent in to lead Rome. There was a sense of revenge rather than redemption in the air at Trump National.
Donald Trump Jr., the billionaire owner’s son, thought it was the former — “the biggest F/U in golf history just happened,” the always charming character tweeted — but thankfully, Stenson was more cautious.
“I played like a captain,” Stenson said with a grin. “I think maybe there was a little extra motivation this week. When we have that as players, we can get the good stuff out. I definitely did that this week.
“It’s been a theme throughout my career – if I really want something, I manage to dig deeper and make it happen. It’s all about looking forward, at least for me, and I’m super proud of the focus I’ve had.”
There was another £305,000, his share of the runner-up here at Trump National, but in relative terms that’s such a bewildering amount that it hardly seems worth mentioning (although that 8% stake in this Camelot-style payday still is more than Sean Crocker collected for his first DP World Tour title on Sunday).
In the last two weeks, the Swede hasn’t quite doubled his career earnings, but he wasn’t far off, and given that the 2016 Open champion won £10m in two months in 2013 – after winning both the PGA Tour and Boni also won at the end of the European Tour – that’s downright ridiculous.
But then, in a tie in sixth place, Westwood took home nearly £1million after also factoring in his team earnings alongside Stenson. At 49, the England veteran can’t believe his luck and certainly nobody should be asking why he’s playing LIV.
Stenson’s timing was certainly priceless as he shot a 69 for a total of 11 under to beat Americans Matthew Wolff and Dustin Johnson by two shots. “I played like a captain,” Stenson said with a grin.
On Monday, Luke Donald will be officially announced as Stenson’s replacement and the Englishman will certainly be questioned about his ‘I won’t do Henrik’ statement. But “doing a Henrik” certainly has a different level of meaning now. Would you take back your word for nearly £45m in 12 days?
By the looks of it, Stenson continues to feel saddened by his treatment from the tour, which quickly stripped him of the role when he revealed he signed for Greg Norman’s company. Predictably, Stenson was supported by his fellow Rebels, who agree there was no reason he couldn’t have continued his job while performing in the breakaway league.
Conveniently, this ignores his signature on that contract, which essentially stated that he would not join LIV. “It was a bitter and mean move,” said David Feherty, the former Ryder Cup player from Ulster who is now a LIV analyst. “Henrik came here to prove something.”
If he’s proven anything, it’s that there’s still life in this old Dreiholz and he can still summon wondrous iron orbs. This is his first title since December 2019 and while the former world No. 2 will remain rooted outside the top 170 – LIV events are yet to see if his events will be eligible for world ranking status – there was little solace at hand enough pockets in New Jersey to stuff it in.
Stenson’s wire-to-wire comeback capped another bizarre and hectic week for LIV, but the series is expected to go eerily quiet for a few weeks as it pauses for more than a month between its third and fourth events.
But while the PGA Tour may be pleased at the calming of hostilities as it hosts its £60m season-ending playoffs, company Greg Norman is warning that the big-name exodus will be hit by a new one in the final week of August level of controversy.
“More things are coming,” Norman said. “To put it this way, we wouldn’t have made the announcement about the start of the league next year sooner 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 like Hideki Matsuyama and Open champion Cam Smith constantly rumoured, as well as many other high-profile contenders, there’s a burgeoning theory that after the Tour championship, a slew of heavyweights will be announced – seeing the FedEx winner will walk away with £15m – on August 28th and then after the Presidents Cup on September 25th.
The LIV campaign peaks Oct. 28-31 on another Trump course. Doral – the PGA Tour’s annual Miami stop from 1962 to 2016 – will host the culmination of the £40m team and after that experience there can be no doubt that the former president will be in attendance.
The 76-year-old was here during that 54-hole game, drawing larger crowds than the players themselves. Several hundred gathered outside the clubhouse for the occasional glimpse of Trump while chanting “four more years.” At times this seemed less like a sporting competition and more like a political rally.
As Stenson clinically completed his degree, Mr. Trump stood before the devoted hordes chanting “Let’s Go Brandon,” a well-known euphemism in his circle of supporters for “F—, Joe Biden,” the incumbent US President. Does golf really need that? Does LIV?