Henrik Stenson Challenges Perceived Hypocrisy Of LIV Golf Critics

The Swede thinks critics of the Saudi-funded organisation don’t always practise what they preach

Henrik Stenson at the 2023 LIV Golf Mayakoba tournament
Henrik Stenson has hit out at what he sees as hypocrisy from LIV Golf critics
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Henrik Stenson has defended his move to LIV Golf and insisted that the circuit is held to different standards than other organisations.

Questions have been raised about the morality of playing for the Saudi-funded organisaion considering the kingdom’s appalling human rights record. 

However, speaking to the Saudi-funded venture to i’s Kevin Garside, the 2016 Open champion insisted that, in many cases, there is hypocrisy at play, pointing to the recent football World Cup Qatar as an example.

He said: “Where do you draw the line? You have people shouting recently about Qatar, about workforce abuses, plus conditions, accidents that led to death. You can’t scream and shout about that then go to Dubai, lie on a beach and think everything’s lovely. It is the same workforce that built the hotels in Dubai. I lived there for 10 years. People get so targeted on one area they can’t see the bigger picture.”

Stenson also addressed the issue of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, and pointed out that it is not alone in employing it - including the country where much of the PGA Tour takes place. He said: “I am open to sensible discussions on these things. We all have different views right? We are talking about executions. We have that in the US. Do we stop playing there?

“China executes more people than the rest of the world combined. Not once have I been questioned about that when I have played there. Yes we acknowledge the overall picture is not perfect [in Saudi] but we believe we have an opportunity to bridge some gaps and influence in different ways.”

Stenson wasn’t finished there and also drew attention to the fact that Saudi Arabia’s controversial Public Investment Fund that bankrolls LIV Golf has business interests in plenty of other areas. He said: “The investors and owners of this business are doing business all over the world, yet we are the ones being held to account in a way others are not. I don’t think that’s fair.”

Stenson, who is competing in LIV Golf Mayakoba at El Camaleon Golf Club, then talked about the way LIV has shaken up the top of the game. He said: “In major league baseball there is agreement between players and organisation that so much of revenue goes into prize funds.

“There have been discussions about how that subject has been handled over the years in golf and the PGA Tour in particular. I think it could have been a more balanced set-up. And there is no question the PGA Tour has been picking up all the talent from all over the world and keeping it. Other parts of world has seen and felt that.”

Finally, Stenson turned his attention to the perception that because LIV Golf tournaments are played over 54 holes rather than 72, it is an easier proposition than  the established tours. 

He said: “It’s like saying tennis outside the majors is not proper tennis just because they play three-set matches. Other sports are evolving too. I’m Swedish. Cross country skiing is in our veins. It went from the 50k grind to the stadium events, quicker finish. There is enough in the golf for both. Besides they still rank tournaments with 54 holes elsewhere. I thought the system ranked irrespective of what tour you are on. We are still beating world-class players.”

The Swede's remarks on the perceived hypocrisy of LIV Golf's critics bear similarities with its CEO Greg Norman, who, last September, accused the PGA Tour of hypocrisy over its sponsors in an interview on Piers Morgan Uncensored.

Mike Hall
News Writer

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.