Golf-Money on offer was a driver in joining LIV Golf, says Stenson

(Reuters) – Henrik Stenson said on Thursday that money definitely played a part in his switch to the lucrative Saudi-backed LIV Golf series and he had hoped to retain his Ryder Cup captaincy which he was stripped of last week.

Stenson had helped Europe to victory in three of his five Ryder Cup appearances as a player but Ryder Cup Europe said the 2016 British Open champion could no longer fulfil contractual obligations as captain after he joined LIV Golf.

The breakaway league has attracted many of golf’s top players including six-times major winner Phil Mickelson and former world number ones Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka. Stenson said the money on offer convinced him to join them.

“I’ve been a golf professional since very late 1998 and purse sizes, prize money on offer, financial part’s always been a part of where we made up our schedules and where we are going to play,” Sweden’s Stenson told reporters.

“It’s been a part of it, absolutely. It was no different in this case.”

Stenson is playing in the third LIV Golf tournament of the season which starts on Friday in New Jersey at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster.

Critics of the new series say it amounts to ‘sportswashing’ by a nation trying to improve its reputation in light of its history of human rights abuses.

LIV Golf CEO and former world number one Greg Norman has said the new series offers players “free agency” and fans an exciting new way of watching golf.

When asked if it was a good look when he knew he would have to give up the Ryder Cup captaincy, Stenson said he made every effort to retain it.

“I don’t feel like I’ve given it up. I made every arrangement possible here to be able to fulfil my captain’s duties, and I’ve had great help here from LIV to be able to do that,” Stenson said.

“And still the decision was made that I was to be removed. I’m obviously disappointed over the situation but it is what it is and we move on from there now.

“We had discussions and I informed them of the decision to go and play in LIV tournaments. They had a short period of time where they were kind of discussing or debating if what was going to happen. I was informed of their decision shortly after.”

Stenson, however, said he hoped for a “quick solution” before the rift between the sport’s top players and tournament organisers widened.

“I obviously feel like it’s a shame that we ended up in this situation. I just hope that we can get a resolution as soon as possible here for all tours and everyone involved, and we can all kind of co-exist together,” Stenson added.

“All the players love The Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, it’s just a shame we ended up in this situation.”

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)