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Known as ‘The Iceman’ for his cool, focused persona and dry sense of humour, here’s why Team Europe’s new captain Henrik Stenson could be the perfect choice to reclaim the Ryder Cup in 2023.
He faces a daunting task after a chastening experience as vice-captain to Padraig Harrington last September when Europe lost by a record 19-9 margin at Whistling Straits. Stenson’s team though will be back on European soil next year, where they haven’t lost to the Americans since 1993 at The Belfry.
“I will do everything in my power and leave no stone unturned in the quest to get the Ryder Cup back in European hands,” Stenson said.
A trailblazer for Swedish golf and one of Europe’s greatest ever players, Stenson’s charm, wit and ice-cool character could prove to be keys to success in the partisan cauldron of the Ryder Cup.
The man who, when told that Patrick Reed considers him a friend on Tour, replied: “Well, that’s obviously one way to look at it,” and who once threw tuna on Ian Poulter’s roof so birds would keep him up all night, could provide much needed levity during the pressure-cooker event.
Over the years, Stenson has also proved to be Ryder Cup captain material. Guy Kinnings, the European Ryder Cup Director, said: “Henrik has all the qualities to be a great Captain. He has an incredibly impressive golfing CV. He is hugely respected by the players and admired by everyone involved with the Ryder Cup.”
As a Ryder Cup player, Stenson proved extremely popular with his team-mates and the media, and the Gothenburg-born golfer has been an integral part of Europe’s success in the event and has never been part of a losing home team.
He made his debut in 2006 under the captainship of Ian Woosnam at The K Club, holing the winning putt on the 15th green, sealing a then record-equalling winning margin of 18.5–9.5. In total, he has played in five Ryder Cups, winning three times, with an impressive record of 11 points from 19 matches.
Historically, one of the keys to success at the Ryder Cup has been forming great playing partnerships, and Stenson became part of a brilliant one at the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. On the opening two days that year, he and Justin Rose played three and won three, contributing three points to a 16.5–11.5 victory for Paul McGinley’s team.
The dynamic duo returned at Le Golf National in Paris in 2018, with foursomes victories over Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson on the Friday, and Johnson and Brooks Koepka on Saturday, before a resounding 5&4 victory over Bubba Watson on the Sunday, helping to ensure victory for Thomas Bjørn’s Team Europe.
A year after making his Ryder Cup debut, Stenson, already a three-time winner on the European Tour, became the first Swede to win a World Golf Championships event, beating Geoff Ogilvy in the final to win the 2007 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
His next watershed moment came at the 2009 Players Championship, where he claimed a four-shot victory at TPC Sawgrass ahead of Ian Poulter, shooting an impressive bogey-free 66 in the final round.
In 2013 Stenson became the first golfer to win the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup and the European Tour’s Race to Dubai in the same year after winning the season ending DP World Tour Championship, a title he would defend in 2014.
He then won the Race to Dubai for a second time in 2016 and his first major at The Open at Royal Troon, after an iconic battle down the stretch with Phil Mickelson when he broke the major championship scoring record for both lowest total to par (-20) and aggregate shots (264).
In total, the former world number two has amassed 21 worldwide victories, including 6 PGA Tour wins and 11 European Tour titles. He also won silver at the Rio Olympics in 2016, behind Great Britain’s Justin Rose.
In Italy next year, Team USA will no doubt start as favourites… but beware, ‘The Iceman’ cometh.