Henrik Stenson 2.0, the Scot with an Open title… or the former captain with a tattoo in the cheekiest of places? After their skipper defected to LIV Golf, there are five options for Europe to choose from for the Swede’s Ryder Cup 2023 replacement
- Swede Henrik Stenson has been sacked as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain for 2023
- The decision was made after he joined the rebel Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour
- There is a five-man shortlist of individuals in a position to take the mantle
- Luke Donald, Thomas Bjorn and Paul Lawrie are in the frame to replace Stenson
- Robert Karlsson and Italian Edoardo Molinari could also step into the void
Europe has a decision to make. With Henrik Stenson jettisoned as Ryder Cup captain after defecting to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour, a replacement is needed.
It is a decision they would rather not be making, with the circus around the Swede’s move causing a great deal of embarrassment for the tournament and the team he has left behind.
Now they must act swiftly to name a new skipper that will lead the charge in Rome in 2023, with the next edition set for Italy for the first time.
There are plenty of able candidates available, all with previous experience on the course, as well as being part of captaincy teams in past years. They will need to call on every last ounce of it to avenge the disastrous defeat at Whistling Straits last year.
Here, Sportsmail takes a look at the five names in the frame to replace Stenson.
Europe’s Ryder Cup team need a new captain for 2023 after Henrik Stenson was sacked
Luke Donald could not hide his disappointment when he missed out to Henrik Stenson for the 2023 captaincy.
The Englishman said ‘I thought I had a chance this time’ and found it hard to swallow, having twice been a vice-captain previously.
His Ryder Cup credentials are impressive. In four previous appearances he has never been beaten, and he was part of the Miracle in Medinah, picking up the first point on the Sunday morning for Europe against Bubba Watson as they battled back from 6-10 behind.
A previous world No 1, back in 2012, his recent form has seen him slide out of the world’s top 500, though he is determined to climb those rankings once again.
Despite his once lofty position within the sport, he was never revered by fans to the same extent of fellow Brits such as Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood.
With that pair having upset the apple cart, their defection may actually work in Donald’s favour. He has already received public backing from the likes of Padraig Harrington and would be a popular choice.
Luke Donald admitted he was disappointed to originally miss out on the captaincy for 2023
If there ever was a safe option for Europe, this is it. Thomas Bjorn is a former winning captain and his love affair with the Ryder Cup makes him a prime candidate.
Having skippered the side to victory in 2018 – the last time the continent tasted glory – the Dane got a tattoo on his bum cheek to commemorate the win. It’s a demonstration of how much the tournament means to him, a seemingly rare stance these days.
He does have a wealth of experience on this stage, having been a vice captain on four previous occasions too. He also won on each of the three occasions he was selected to play in 1997, 2002 and 2014.
Already named a vice-captain by Stenson, Bjorn is a likeable character on the tour. He undoubtedly earned further kudos after being name-checked by Sergio Garcia as one of the individuals giving the LIV Golf rebels a hard time in the locker room.
His friendship with Rory McIlroy could also stand him in good stead, with the Northern Irishman reportedly being given a say in the decision making.
However, Europe have tended to steer away from repeat captains in recent years, with nobody awarded the honour mutliple times since Scotsman Bernard Gallacher was made captain for a third time in 1995.
Thomas Bjorn has previous experience as a Ryder Cup captain having overseen victory in 2018
Perhaps the least well known of the five contenders, Paul Lawrie still has some serious credentials.
The Scot is a former Open champion having won in 1999 at Carnoustie and has experience of playing in two previous Ryder Cups, winning the prize in 2012.
He was vice-captain in 2016 alongside Padraig Harrington and Bjorn – both of whom have since gone on to skipper the side outright.
He was reportedly on the original shortlist of individuals considered to lead the class of 2023, but given the experience of others he may find himself passed by again.
Paul Lawrie is a former Open champion and has previously been given vice-captain duties
Much like Lawrie, Karlsson lacks the experience of some of those on the shortlist when it comes to consistent success in the game, and Ryder Cup caps to his name.
Karlsson has represented the continent twice, appearing in both the 2006 and 2008 editions. He also has been selected twice as a vice-captain, by Bjorn in 2018 and by Padraig Harrington.
Replacing one Swede with another may not be the look Europe wants however, with the temptations for direct comparisons with Stenson the last thing the team would need after such an unseemly split with the ousted captain.
Robert Karlsson has been named a vice-captain on two previous occasions at the Ryder Cup
Just like Bjorn, Edoardo Molinari was already primed for an active role in next year’s competition having been named by Stenson as one of his vice captains.
He has experience of playing in the tournament having been part of the European team in 2010, but in truth, compared to the rest of the list, his experience is lacking.
The clamour for him to be promoted is understandable, the idea of an Italian captaining the side as the competition is played in his homeland for the first time is as romantic as it gets.
However, if the idea was to promote a VC, then Bjorn would be the obvious choice. Even within his own family, brother Francesco has a more appealing CV, having won the Open and been selected for Europe on three occasions in the Ryder Cup.
Edoardo’s own career was hampered by injury, and while his participation as a vice captain is welcome at the tournament in Rome, Europe will need to look in a different direction if they truly wish to avenge the heavy defeat of Whistling Straights in 2021.
Like Bjorn, Edoardo Molinari was named by Stenson as one of his vice-captains for 2023
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