It didn’t take long for Henrik Stenson’s decision to join the Saudi-funded LIV Golf Invitational series to pay off handsomely.
Less than a fortnight after Sweden stripped Europe’s Ryder Cup captaincy with immediate effect, reportedly to blame in the controversial Saudi-backed breakaway circuit over a signing fee of $50m, Stenson on Sunday afternoon Ko won in the final round of 69. Third event of LIV golf from two shots at Dustin Johnson and Matthew Wolfe at Trump National Golf Club in the leafy New Jersey township of Bedminster, 45 miles west of New York City.
“I think we can agree that I played like a captain,” said Stenson, who brought home $4m to beat the field and an additional $375,000 for his team’s second-place finish. The amount that brought him water helped him to compensate for the criticism he had endured. Since reneging on March’s pledge to accept the position of captain to fully support the DP Tour.
“I think this week there may be some additional inspiration there,” he said. “When we have that as players, I think we can bring good things. I think this has been a theme throughout my career, I guess, when I really want something I manage to dig a little deeper, and there are times we manage to do it.
On the surface it hit all the notes of a feel-good narrative: a hard-won return to the winning circle for the 46-year-old, ranked 173 in the world, who doesn’t happen often since his record-breaking victory. . 2016 Open. But as Stenson accepted the trophy during a pyrotechnic ceremony with Donald Trump, it was curiously removed from the official broadcast, while Donald Trump Jr. declared It’s the “greatest f/u in golf history”, with a scathing sense of tedium that even the post-game Chainsmokers concert near the 10th hole couldn’t get away.
The opprobrium that came to define the upstart circuit, bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, was only extended to the Bedminster Golf Club owned by a former US president, whose role in fueling the US Capital riot by a House select committee. is under investigation. Controversial, but loud.
Trump sucked up the spotlight throughout proceedings, consistently attracting the biggest crowd of the weekend, as he watched the contest with a revolving cast of VIPs from a custom-built terrace along the 16th Tee, including one on Fox News on Sunday. Pundit Tucker Carlson and far-right firebrand Marjorie Taylor Green.
The 54-hole, no-cut competition — the absence of meaningful bets with no history or world ranking points on the line — felt more like a soft launch for Trump’s 2024 presidency than an authentic sporting experience. During the final round of Sunday’s “Four More Years!” Never more than spontaneous chants of. and “Come on Brandon!” — a coded obscenity among Trump supporters — echoed throughout the old curriculum.
The renegade circuit has wooed some of the biggest names in the game with $25m wallets and nine-figure sign-on fees. It has also drawn strong backlash from critics who blamed the Saudi government for the kingdom’s dismal human rights record, alleged ties to the September 11 attacks, severe repression of women’s and LGBTQ+ rights and the use of games for the 2018 murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal. accused of doing. Khashoggi.
But it doesn’t require a certified public accountant to understand why LIV Golf—despite its modest streaming audience in Bedminster with sparse crowds and lack of TV deals—continues to hunt down one household name after another from golf’s established tours. has kept. Consider Johnson, a two-time major champion, who reportedly joined on a signing fee of $150m, who has so far raked in more than $5.2m in prize money across three LIV events. Splash wallets don’t stop at the top of the leaderboard either. Australia’s Jediah Morgan, who finished 14-over-par for the weekend, brought home $120,000 from Stenson’s margin of 25 shots and, at the last minute, his trouble. Nice work if you can get it.
LIV Golf is here to stay, it seems. Next stop: Oaks Course at the International outside Boston in September. But the strange scenes at Bedminster only drive home how far he has to go to win over his doubts and bridge golf’s escalating Civil War divide.