By Bernie McGuire, Yas Links, Abu Dhabi.
Henrik Stenson is confident next month’s courtroom showdown will rule in favour of LIV golfers re-joining both the PGA and DP World Tours.
Stenson has returned to the DP World Tour for two events, starting this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and also next week’s Hero Dubai Desert Classic, sending the LIV Golf flag high to be inside the top-10 following an opening round of 68 in bright but windy conditions on the Yas Links course.
European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald leads the way, birdieing his closing four holes in a sizzling eight-under 64.
Stenson, 46, is contesting a first DP World Tour event since missing the cut in last July’s Genesis Scottish and also sitting out all four rounds at the 150th Open, and while only receiving his missing clubs in the UAE on Wednesday, he produced five birdies in his round.
The champion Swede is among nine LIV players competing in this week’s record-setting $US9m event where a year ago, Stenson was sighted in a corner of the outdoor ‘Players Only’ area of the Yas clubhouse, in a near two-hour conversation with European Tour CEO Keith Pelley.
Two months later, the Tour proudly announced the five-time Ryder Cup capped Swede had agreed to accept 2023 European Team captaincy. In mid-May, Stenson named Thomas Bjorn, captain of the 2018 victorious Versailles side, as a first Rome vice-captain.
Then after a further two months, in what was an unprecedented move in the history of men’s professional golf, the now LIV Golf attached Stenson was unceremoniously stripped of the European Team captaincy.
When asked if he’s confident a US District Court will rule in LIV Golf’s favour Stenson said: “Pretty confident and if you ask me, I think it’s the right decision.
“I guess the R&A were kind of hinting this way in saying LIV players would be eligible for the ’23 Open, and more-recently Augusta National indicated all qualified LIV players can play the Masters.
“I think with everything that’s gone on, the majors are in a position where they are going to get everyone in the top of the game playing together, and that’s what we want to have, obviously as many weeks as you can on a normal basis.
“It’s never really been that way because players have been spread out along different tours and around the world.
“It is the major championships that bring all the players together, and you’ll see who is playing the best golf and they are going to get that attention, and rightfully so.”
Of course, if the court rules against LIV Golf, then next week’s Hero Dubai Desert Classic could be Stenson’s 391st and last competing under the DP Tour World banners.
He said: Yeah, that would be potentially a shame if the court ruling goes there, but I’m not going to think too much about that beforehand.
“I’m here to enjoy these two weeks and start up my season and see where we go from there.
“Though that could also be the same case for me in America, as I could have played my last PGA Tour event depending on what happens. But I’m not the one calling the shots on that.”
- Full scoring HERE