How To Turn Stenson's Exit Into A Huge Positive

Henrik Stenson’s demise as Ryder Cup captain had been coming for a while which is an odd thing to say about someone who had only been in the post for 128 days.

The rumours throughout The Open were that the Swede was on his way and, three days after the winning putt had been sunk, he had been announced, along with Jason Kokrak and Charles Howell III, as the latest inductees into the LIV Golf circus.

If there is a positive, and this truly is a colossal kick in the knackers for the Ryder Cup, as a whole and not just Team Europe, it’s that it’s happened now. Imagine if this had happened further down the line with more plans in place.

His predecessor Padraig Harrington, who will be part of the reconvened committee to committee to find Stenson’s replacement, knew better than anyone that all this was about to explode and that the brains behind the European effort were already onto taking the next steps.

“We knew it was coming, in some ways, and we've been planning for it for the last 10 days. It gives us plenty of time, in terms of 15 months to get our ducks in a line. We are already talking about when we are meeting to elect the next captain. It is really not going to interfere with the Ryder Cup in any shape or form.

“I do wish he had waited 15 months. Everyone has to make the right decision financially for themselves.”

Stenson explained his actions via social media and, if it was possible, knocked him even further down in most people’s opinions.

One line was particularly nauseating: “It goes without saying that I remain on hand to support Ryder Cup Europe in any way I can and very much hope the opportunity to represent Team Europe in some capacity will come my way again at some point in the future.”

It then goes on to describe all the good in the game that he’s done with confirmation that he remains ‘committed to growing the game’.

The whole thing reads like something that his manager, lawyers and LIV Golf have put together and nothing like his own voice.

Whatever we now think of Stenson the 46-year-old has always been fun and straightforward. He likes to see the silly side in a situation, ask him a question and he’ll generally give you a good answer, maybe not the most exciting but he’ll put some thought into it, and he’s certainly what many of us would label a good bloke.

He's undeniably brilliant to watch with those thumping iron shots and the best 3-wood in the history of the game and he likes a laugh, what’s not to love?

As things stand he’s now a bit of a busted flush. Age has caught up with his game and he’s been bought by LIV purely because of his Ryder Cup position. In 15 months there would no interest in him, now he serves a massive purpose in disrupting a week where there are more eyeballs on golf than ever.

If there is an upside it’s that Europe might well have dodged a bullet in not having Stenson at the helm. The most obvious is that why you would you want him in charge of the team when, having given his word, he can be bought off. Was it $40 or $50m, who really cares?



Who knows what Stenson would have been like as a captain but, and it’s easy to say now, his jokes might have lost a bit of their sparkle when the going got tough in Rome. Sir Nick Faldo had already blown it in many respects as a hybrid of a lack of trust around the media, some terrible jokes and a real lack of attention to detail meant that his leadership was a real mess. We want a leader who we feel like is all over it and who has put their all into the collective effort to win back the cup. 

Padraig Harrington, two years ago, oversaw a team that was absolutely thumped but there was barely a word of criticism as his efforts went very noticed and we all console ourselves that we were simply ‘beaten by the better team’.

How on earth do you judge who Europe’s best captain has been in recent times? By score? Charisma? Pairings? Motivational skills? Jose Maria Olazabal didn’t win a session until the singles at Medinah, Monty lost three of the four sessions at Celtic Manor and both still emerged as winning captains.

Thomas Bjorn was fantastic in Paris, unpicking the superstar Americans with a brilliant mix of motivation, partnerships and course set-up, and he is already part of what was Stenson’s back-up.

Maybe it will be a case of Bjorn Again, maybe Luke Donald will get the gig that he missed out on a few months ago or maybe Europe will do something that is out of kilter with the modern-day process and go back in time.

Why not go back to the captain that probably ticked more boxes than any other, certainly in recent times and maybe ever? Why would you not want to give Paul McGinley another go?

From a tactical standpoint he left no stone unturned at Gleneagles and he’d have far more statistical back-up than he had in 2014. Edoardo Molinari is the other vice-captain already named and his insight into the numbers of the game will be a huge boost for understanding games and partnerships a lot more clearer.

We can all understand the one-and-done nature of the captaincy these days with all the big European names queuing up to take their rightful place at the top table but things are different now. The likes of Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter would certainly have been ahead of Stenson, then we have Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer and Paul Casey – all of these, for now, are done with the Ryder Cup so our options are a lot more limited.

This would be the perfect time to go back to a tried-and-tested McGinley in lieu of the ‘extenuating circumstances’ at present. Why would you not want to tap into the mind of the Dubliner given how well you know that it works? How on earth did Paul Azinger not get invited back after his heroics at Valhalla, only to see the likes of Tom Watson and Jim Furyk fall flat on their faces?

This is regularly repeated but McGinley had, on paper, one of the most difficult characters in the team room in Victor Dubuisson. Here was a player who turns up to tournaments without his clubs, or trousers, and will leave his baggage on a carousel rather than have to wait? He’ll happily dip out of the game for long periods and, at Gleneagles, he had no interest in turning up to endless team meetings.

And yet he contributed two and a half points out of three with McDowell, a plan that was put in place months before by McGinley. If you want a brilliant example of brilliant leadership then look no further than that and there were countless examples of those in Scotland.

Even in among all the current lunacy there’s still plenty of time to get things back on an even keel – turn all this into a positive and get McGinley back in charge.