LIV Golf rebel Henrik Stenson faces Ryder Cup sub Luke Donald on Tour return

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LIV Golf rebel Henrik Stenson faces Ryder Cup sub Luke Donald on Tour return
LIV Golf rebel Henrik Stenson faces Ryder Cup sub Luke Donald on Tour return

Ryder Cup captains past and present will collide under heated circumstances at this year's Abu Dhabi Championship after LIV Golf rebel Henrik Stenson was named on the tournament's start list.

The Rolex Series event—which boasts a £7.5million prize purse—will be Stenson's first DP World Tour event since he was stripped of the Ryder Cup armband in July 2022. And former world No. 1 Luke Donald —who replaced him in the role —may well hope to ensure the Swede's return to the Tour is an unceremonious one.

Donald, 45, stoked the rivalry between the pair after he was unveiled as Team Europe's new skipper for the 2023 tournament, which takes place at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club near Rome, Italy. “I will live up to my word and see it through," he commented at the time. "I wouldn't be doing a Henrik.”

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The Ryder Cup outlook remains uncertain ahead of a crucial February hearing, which will determine whether the PGA Tour and European Tour have the right to ban players who have jumped ship for LIV. Golf's elite were warned punishments, such as suspensions and fines, would be forthcoming if they joined the Saudi-funded series, potentially blocking them from competing in the Ryder Cup.

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“I just expect to be treated fairly going forward depending on what the outcomes are in this case… [with] qualification and vice captaincies and all the rest,” said Stenson in regards to the upcoming court case. Fellow LIV golfers like Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Patrick Reed will also suit up for the Abu Dhabi Championship, which gets underway at Yas Marina Links on January 20.

Two-time Team Europe member Jon Rahm recently called for clarity over whether LIV Golf defectors would be allowed to participate in this year's competition. The Spanish-born star suggested that banning those who have headed for Saudi Arabia's breakaway league would be a grand opportunity to test certain prospects on one of golf's greatest stages.

LIV Golf rebel Henrik Stenson faces Ryder Cup sub Luke Donald on Tour returnLuke Donald replaced Henrik Stenson as Ryder Cup captain after the latter announced his move to LIV Golf (Luke Walker/Getty Images)

"My guess is I hope the PGA of America and European Tour make a decision together. I don't think it would be smart to have one team allowing LIV players and one not to.

"Even if they decide not to on that side, I think it's going to give an opportunity for a lot of great young players to show up and have the chance in Europe, right? It's just going to be an opportunity for all of them. We saw a younger U.S. team last Ryder Cup, and they did what they did."

Stenson, 46, finished as runner-up in the inaugural edition of the Abu Dhabi Championship back in 2006 and shared second spot with fellow rebel Westwood two years later. Donald will be motivated to outperform the mutineers in Abu Dhabi, where he's also been charged with overseeing the two-team Hero Cup event from January 13 to January 15.

Tom Sunderland

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15.07.2024, 17:44 • Investigation