LONDON: Henrik Stenson was Wednesday stripped of the captaincy of the European Ryder Cup team, with the Swede understood to be on the verge of joining the Saudi-funded rebel LIV Golf series. Following discussions with Ryder Cup Europe officials, the decision was made to effectively sack the 46-year-old as skipper of the team for the event in Italy next year. The move will deepen the rifts in a sport wracked by internal division, with a growing number of major stars defecting to the lucrative new circuit. Ryder Cup Europe said in a statement that Stenson’s tenure as skipper for the competition against the United States in Rome next year had been brought to an end “with immediate effect”. “In light of decisions made by Henrik in relation to his personal circumstances, it has become clear that he will not be able to fulfil certain contractual obligations to Ryder Cup Europe,” it said. The statement added: “Confirmation of the new 2023 European Ryder Cup captain will be made in due course. Ryder Cup Europe will be making no further comment on any aspect of the process until that time.” Stenson, the 2016 British Open champion, reached a career high of number two in the world but has since slumped to 171 in the rankings. His appointment as skipper of Team Europe in March had appeared to end speculation about his involvement in the Saudi-backed breakaway series as he insisted he was fully committed to the role. Speaking after his appointment, Stenson said: “I am fully committed to the captaincy, Ryder Cup Europe and the job at hand, so we are going to keep busy with that and I’m going to do everything in my power to deliver a winning team in Rome.” After missing the cut at last week’s Open, Stenson admitted his upcoming schedule was “undecided”. His anticipated defection to the LIV series will be a fresh headache for the established tours, which have been powerless to prevent big-name players such as Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson from joining the rebel circuit. European players must be members of the DP World Tour, formerly known as the European Tour, to be eligible to compete for Team Europe in the Ryder Cup. Former US President Donald Trump on Monday urged golfers to “take the money” and sign with the LIV series, with reports stating more players were poised to join the controversial circuit. LIV Golf, which is fronted by Australian great Greg Norman, is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. Human Rights groups have criticised the venture saying it is being used to boost Saudi Arabia’s international reputation, a phenomenon labelled “sportswashing”. The Ryder Cup is due to take place at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome from September 29 next year.