Far from a prodigal son returning, Henrik Stenson is set to make his presence felt back on DP World Tour fairways when he tees up at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship from January 19-22.
The Swede’s reputation was widely disgraced following his decision to join LIV Golf at the expense of the Ryder Cup Captaincy. Many observers speculated that Stenson may have used his status for Team Europe as leverage in order to negotiate a better contract with the bottomless pockets of the Saudi funded venture. For his part, Stenson wondered why he couldn’t do both; have his cake and eat it despite being fully aware of the consequences that any move to LIV would have.
Since joining LIV, Stenson hasn’t been seen on a European Tour fairway, and he’s since been replaced by Luke Donald as European skipper for the revenge mission in Rome. Both players will tee-up in Abu Dhabi, as well as a cohort of other LIV golfers, including Lee Westwood, Patrick Reed and Ian Poulter. For a paltry $9million purse, you’d wonder why they’d bother.
Well, I guess they still can is one reason with February’s court case set to decide once and for all if LIV golfers can continue to play both sides of the fence, while also answering the question of their Ryder Cup eligibility.
Stenson won’t be making that team regardless of the verdict but a number of Irish hopefuls will look to feature, not least Shane Lowry and Séamus Power who both tee-up at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. The pair will arrive off the back of representing GB&I at the Hero Cup the previous week where Captain Donald will run his eye over a whole host of hopefuls, young and old, in the reimagined Seve Trophy.
It would be asking a lot of Holywood’s Tom McKibbin to force his way into any Ryder Cup conversations but looking at the entry list for Abu Dhabi, the 20-year old talent is teetering as fourth reserve for the tournament, and securing a lucrative start would no doubt mean the biggest opportunity to date in McKibbin’s fledgling career.
Come on, Rory, hook a brother up!
And don’t forget about Pádraig Harrington. OK, he’s not going to be lining out in European blue in Rome but he’s also teeing up at Yas Links, and as ever, he’ll be teeing up thinking he can win. Harrington might be turning into a serial winner on the senior circuit but he still has eyes on main tour prizes too.
It would be sacrilegious to bet against him.