Stenson Overtakes Donald To Become NEW Favourite For Ryder Cup Captaincy - Sources

The Swede has been told he is the new front-runner for the European Ryder Cup captaincy, it is understood

Henrik Stenson pictured
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Henrik Stenson faces a huge dilemma after being told he is the new front-runner for the European Ryder Cup captaincy - but only if he is prepared to sever all connections with the rumoured Saudi Arabia-backed Super League.

Stenson is understood to have edged out Luke Donald as the preferred choice of the DP World Tour’s Ryder Cup committee, which will convene at the end of this month to name the man to lead Europe in Rome next year.

But they are aware that unlike Donald, Stenson has been closely linked with the Saudi breakaway circuit, and will seek reassurances that he is ready to commit himself to the golfing establishment.

That will not be an easy decision for Stenson, who will turn 46 next month. The 2016 Open champion has been painfully aware of the need to ‘stockpile’ money while he can, ever since he lost a fortune in the notorious Allen Stanford fraud scandal more than a decade ago.

Stenson lost an estimated $11million when Stanford’s investment scheme was exposed as a sham, with the disgraced financier eventually being handed a 110 year prison sentence.

The Swedish star recouped that sum when he won the Tour Championship in 2013, and the $10million FedEx Cup bonus that went with it. But the financial scars left by that episode have never been healed, as he revealed during an interview with Golf Digest following his Tour Championship triumph.

He said: “I never met Stanford and it’s safe to say I won’t be visiting him in prison. If I did come face-to-face with him, then what I’d do to the guy could get me arrested also. 

“I didn’t have all my eggs in his basket, but I had a lot of eggs in there and it hurt. It was a tough experience, but life has a way of setting things right.

“After I won the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup, I actually flew from Atlanta to my home in Orlando having collected more than $11million. And when I was on the plane I worked out that I was flying over the federal prison in Florida where he’ll likely be for the rest of his life. 

“Yeah, there was satisfaction in that. But it was more thinking about all those people who lost a tremendous amount of money to him but weren’t fortunate enough to be in a position to make a lot of it back.”

The Ryder Cup committee is made up of the last three European captains - Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn, and Padraig Harrington - plus David Howell, the chairman of the DP World Tour’s Tournament Committee, and Tour chief executive Keith Pelley.

DP World Tour sources say they are keen to make an announcement before the Masters, but are concerned about being embarrassed if their choice later ‘defected’ to a Super League.

Stenson did not help his bank balance by missing the cut at the Players Championship - but at least he is unlikely to be hit with a fine for withdrawing from the event before completing his second round.

He can expect sympathy after not returning on Sunday to play the one hole he failed to complete before play finished on Saturday evening. Stenson was seven over par at that stage, and was certain to miss the cut. So getting up at the crack of dawn for a futile exercise was never going to be very appealing.

And with storms, high winds, and biting cold causing so much disruption at Sawgrass - leaving most of the field feeling frazzled - the PGA Tour are unlikely to hit him in the pocket.

David Facey
David Facey

David brings a wealth of experience to Golf Monthly as a freelance contributor having spent more than two decades covering the game as The Sun's golf correspondent. Prior to that, he worked as a sports reporter for the Daily Mail. David has covered the last 12 Ryder Cups and every Masters tournament since 1999. A popular and highly-respected name in the press tents around the world, David has built close relationships with many of the game's leading players and officials.