Golf takes back seat at Saudi-backed, Trump-hosted event

Golf takes back seat at Saudi-backed, Trump-hosted event

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Shortly after a former US Navy SEALs three-man paratrooper unit carrying a jumbo-sized American flag, Phil Mickelson was struck by a heckler during ear-splitting between the screaming guitars of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck. was interrupted because he was standing on top of his first. Shot on the 16th tee.

“Do it for the Saudi royal family!”

Talk about weird. The six-time major champion stepped away from his ball, framing himself as the gallery stirred before depositing his tee shot into the greenside bunker. And it only got stranger from there, on Friday afternoon, as the third event of the controversial LIV Golf Invitational series crept to life at Trump National Golf Club in the farm town of Bedminster, central New Jersey.

Henrik Stenson and Patrick Reed were the joint overnight leaders at seven-under-par through 18 holes, two shots ahead of Phachara Khongwatmai of Thailand and three better than Dustin Johnson and Carlos Ortiz. But golf itself continues to take a back seat to substantial controversy outside the ropes at the $25m Saudi-backed event.

Consistent backlash from critics, who have accused the Saudi government of using the kingdom’s dismal human rights record, severe repression of women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, and allegedly using a $2 billion investment to fund the 2018 murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, It has since been well documented. The Breakaway Golf Tour was formally announced in March. 11 attacks, which prompted a major protest Friday morning led by survivors and victims’ families at a public library four miles down the road from Trump National’s 500-acre grounds. (That the former U.S. president continues to wear the presidential seal throughout his club in violation of federal law is far below the laundry list that is rarely mentioned.)

But it was a surprising lack of spectators for Friday’s opening round of the 54-hole, no-cut tournament – a setback even in light of LIV golf’s twinkling lifespan – that has left Saudi supporters of the tour wondering what a comeback might be. More questions left than answered. realistically expected on their investment.

For all of LIV Golf’s excitement about being a fan-focused alternative to the PGA Tour, there certainly weren’t many people to enjoy it as the third installment rolled out. Organizers declined to release official attendance figures, but Friday’s season was played in front of no more than two thousand fans, while the massive paper house and $75 ground pass were going for $2 on the secondary market. Volunteers began outnumbering punters in the more remote areas of the 7,591-yard Old Course, while outsourced food trucks, merch tents and more on a windswept plot of dead grass near the less populated Fan Village—the 11th Fairway A group of corporate establishments. – Nope’s third act bore an unnecessary resemblance to Steven Yeun’s uninhabited theme park.

It’s a big time game in the form of Potemkin Village. All the signs of a major event – ​​a $25m purse, nine-figure sign-on fees and garish perks crafted by a household name – have not compensated for the credibility of a competition with no meaningful history or world ranking points. A package that manages to come across as more production and slapdash at the same time.

The largest crowd of the afternoon was reserved for Donald Trump, who led a caravan of golf carts around the field accompanied by Yasser al-Rumayun, the golf-obsessed former banker and president of Newcastle United, which controls the Saudi Public Investment Fund. does. With nine holes left, the former US president pulled up to the clubhouse as the LCD soundsystem blew from the loudspeakers surrounded by hundreds of giddy supporters and culminated in a custom-built ceiling with the 16th Tee, pausing to chat with Caitlyn Jenner. Was doing intermittently for photo-ops with VIP ticket holders. The fish bowl-like enclosure offered its fans outside a minute-by-minute view of the one-time chief executive, easily recognizable even from a distance, in his red Make America Great Again cap.

Even as Reid raced to the top of the leaderboard with six birdies from the fourth to the 10th hole, matched by late-charging Stenson, his defection resulted in his removal as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain. Gone, which was the biggest news. Took place away from the course of the day.

Charles Barkley, the basketball legend turned beloved broadcaster, put an end to speculation that he would be leaving his longtime position on Inside the NBA for a LIV golf commentary gig. Shortly after, two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson became the latest big name to break away from the PGA Tour, becoming the 12th major champion to join the Renegade circuit. It’s hard to say whether it will make a difference, but the empty sensation of Friday’s swirl portends an ascent.

Mickelson, who was reportedly paid a guaranteed $200m to join the LIV Tour as a player and lead recruiter, said he was not disappointed with Heckler in an arena where he has scored more than five 75s. became wildly popular after the K card to which he was tied. 46th out of 48.

“No, I had a really good day,” he said. “I’m disappointed just because I expect more of myself.”

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