Henrik Stenson returns to the DP World Tour, trailing a familiar foe

Henrik Stenson returns to the DP World Tour, trailing a familiar foe

To say that the past 12 months have been tumultuous for Henrik Stenson doesn’t say it all. Sweden’s most accomplished golfer, big winner and longtime Ryder Cup star for Europe, has had his captaincy for 2023 scrapped as part of the drama that saw him sign with LIV Golf.

On Thursday, Stenson, 46, was back on the DP World Tour (formerly European Tour) for the first time since the controversy exploded last summer.

Stenson opened the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship with a 68 under par at Yas Links against leader Luke Donald, who shot 64. Ah yes, Luke Donald, the Englishman who replaced Stenson as captain.

Henrik Stenson won his first start at LIV Golf last year.

Stenson, who accepted the captaincy last March for this year’s matches in Rome, had that honor stripped as he was about to formalize his commitment to LIV Golf. Adding to the storyline – Stenson came out and won his first LIV event at the New Jersey tournament in July after a series of indifferent plays.

“It was awesome,” Stenson told reporters afterward. “It’s been a long time. Lots of guys that I haven’t seen in a long, long time. It was great fun catching up with some old friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time. It’s been a great week so far. ‘now.”

It didn’t necessarily start like that. Stenson left his Florida home on Sunday for the United Arab Emirates and his clubs did not arrive until Tuesday afternoon. Because he was not part of the pro-am on Wednesday, he was unable to practice on the course with his clubs.

And his being in the tournament – along with fellow LIV Golf players Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Patrick Reed, Sam Horsfield, Richard Bland and others – is due to a temporary suspension granted last July by a UK court which is due to be resolved next month. It allows LIV golfers who are members of the DP World Tour to participate in tournaments.

So Stenson and others will also compete next week in Dubai before heading to the opening Asian Tour at Saudi International.

The five-day session to resolve the issue will begin on February 6 with an expected resolution possibly within a week.

The question of whether LIV players should be allowed to participate in DP World was posed to Stenson on Thursday.

“When we all went to play on the PGA Tour back then, nobody said we shouldn’t have been welcome,” Stenson said, referring to the fact that many players held dual memberships. “There are multiple tours around the world and as far as I’m concerned, as long as you meet your (membership) criteria and earn your right to be there, you should be able to play in as many tournaments as you want. I no player has approached me personally and voiced those thoughts.”

Stenson pointed to a stark difference in LIV Golf’s dispute with the PGA Tour, which requires a minimum of 15 events to be a member. With 14 LIV events on the schedule, no matter where you stand on the matter, it would be hard to do both.

But the DP World Tour only requires four tournaments outside of major championships and the only World Championship golf event to meet membership requirements. Stenson and others will be halfway through next week.

As for the Ryder Cup captaincy, Stenson was asked if he has any regrets.

“No, I made my decision and obviously Ryder Cup Europe made theirs,” said Stenson, who has played in the Ryder Cup six times. “Yeah it’s not great but it is what it is. The Ryder Cup has been a big part of my career so I wish Luke all the best with the team going forward. We’ll see where we’ll all find ourselves in the long run with this.”

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