Henrik Stenson said he was pleased with his LIV Golf debut after overcoming an “emotional” week to take a three-shot lead heading into the final round at Bedminster, New Jersey, 10 days after being stripped of Europe’s Ryder Cup captaincy.
The Swede offset a double bogey on the third hole with an eagle putt and then carded four birdies for a 2-under 69 at a windy Trump National Golf Club to go three shots clear of former world No.1 Dustin Johnson. Stenson said that the amount of money on offer at the Saudi-funded series played a part in his switch to the breakaway circuit and looks poised to make the move pay off by taking home the $4 million prize.
“It’s certainly been a busy and emotional week, or 10 days, no question,” Stenson, 46, told reporters on Saturday. “But I was very happy with how I managed to channel the concentration and go out and play the best round of the season yesterday (Thursday),” added Stenson, who made eight birdies for a 7-under 64 on his return to golf on Friday.
“I didn’t have my best stuff today, but I was still focused and (had a) good attitude. That’s what kept me in the ballgame... Overall, I’m pleased, and we’re at the races.” Asked if he had a chip on his shoulder about the Ryder Cup captaincy decision, Stenson looked at both of his shoulders and replied: “I don’t see any.” Stenson, who triumphed at the 2016 British Open with a record score, is ranked 173rd in the world and has not won on the PGA Tour since 2017.
LIV’s third event in Bedminster has attracted protests from 9/11 survivors and victims’ families, who criticized the golfers for their willingness to play in the league and former president Donald Trump for hosting the event. On Friday, two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson became the latest big name to join the invitational series. LIV has been criticised by those opposed to the league, saying it amounts to blatant “sportswashing” by a nation trying to improve its reputation in light of its history of human rights abuses. LIV is a professional golf tour financed by the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia.