LIV Golf as It Looked Inside Trumpworld

LIV Golf as It Looked Inside Trumpworld

BEDMINSTER, NJ—The most anticipated grouping of this LIV golf event was an unusual fivesome that began the day before the actual tournament began.

Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, two of the biggest golf stars to join the Rebel tour, were professionals in the group. They were joined by former President Donald Trump, on whose course they were playing, and his son, Eric. Yasser al-Rumayyan, who controls the Saudi sovereign-wealth fund that funds the upstart circuit, rounded out the group before peeling back later.

“He just got off a very big plane,” Trump said of Mr. al-Rumayun on the first tea box.

The delicate politics of this new tour played a key role in the third event of the LIV at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster. Mr Trump has emerged as a rare politician in favor of the Saudi-backed venture, as many on Capitol Hill raised concerns over it. “Make America Great Again” and “Trump” hats dotted the gallery on Friday.

A short distance away, the families of 9/11 victims attacked people associated with the circuit. When Phil Mickelson won the opening round, a fan appeared to shout: “Do it for the Saudi royal family!”

Phil Mickelson on the 16th tee at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster.


photo:

Cliff Hawkins / Getty Images

Meanwhile, the golf itself wasn’t supercharged at all – on the first day of the tournament, most of the vast grounds here were lightly crowded. Tickets for Saturday’s season were available on stubhub.com for as little as $1.

And Mr Trump acted as if he owned the place.

The high-profile group presented an unusual sight for Thursday’s Pro-Am round: At least a dozen golf carts, including Mr Trump’s presidential seal, were on the same hole. It was a rare glimpse into Mr Trump during his presidency even after tours that were usually out of the press.

“Glad it’s over,” he said after hitting his opening shot about 10 minutes behind his scheduled tee time.

On the second hole, Mr. Trump went down the back tee that was playing professionally. He drove his car while a teapot stood on the back and hung. He maintained a mild joke with players about the course, which was scheduled to host this year’s PGA Championship until the PGA of America pivoted after the January 6 riots at the Capitol.

Mr Trump also took the liberty not to let others feel comfortable in the prestigious country club. He took out divots on some practice shots. On the second hole, he drove his car to the edge of the green – causing some confusion as everyone, including Mr. After he called them out, Mr Trump backed him.

Former President Donald Trump, talks with Yasser al-Rumayun on Friday.


photo:

Seth Wenig / The Associated Press

At various instances, Mr Trump has approached journalists and volunteers to make brief remarks and answer questions. (There were no fans for the pro-am round.) At one point, he spoke to Trump Doral, his course that will host a second LIV event later this year. Asked how much he was paid to do business with LIV, he said it was “very generous”, but added: “I don’t do it for that.”

Trump’s relationship with the golf establishment has been rocky. Their Doral Course used to host PGA Tour events but no longer does. His Bedminster course lost this year’s PGA Championship. And now it has armed itself with the Rebel Tour that has attracted some of the world’s best golfers with lavish payouts and a controversial source of funding.

Mr Trump, whose first official foreign trip as president took him to Saudi Arabia, and his family have also maintained close business ties with the kingdom since leaving office. In addition to Trump courses hosting two LIV events this season, his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s private-equity fund has received $2 billion from the Saudi Public Investment Fund, the same institution that finances LIV.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal earlier this week, Mr Trump played down concerns over Saudi connections and the country’s human rights record. He said the reaction to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was “death”, while adding that he did not know much about the stances of the 9/11 families who attacked the LIV events on their assessment of Saudi Arabia’s role in the terrorist attack. Is. attack. While most of the attackers were Saudi citizens, the Saudi government has denied any role.

And while various critics, including lawmakers, have accused Saudi Arabia of using golf’s popularity to whitewash its global reputation, Mr Trump said he believes LIV has been “great” for the country’s image. Is.

“I think it’s going to be an incredible investment from that point of view, and it’s worth more than a lot of other things because you can’t buy it — even with billions of dollars,” he said. Mr Trump told The Journal.

No lines at the bar inside Fan Village.


photo:

Andrew Beaton for The Wall Street Journal

While a catchphrase of LIV is “golf, but louder”, the tournament did not begin with extraordinary discussions on the field. While some areas were crowded on Friday, other holes—even ones with marquee players like Mr DeChambeau—were lacking fans as the day progressed. The “Fan Village,” with food trucks and various activities, wasn’t exactly packed either. There was no line at the bar midway through the afternoon.

One of the main sources of noise came from speakers spread across the course that now play music even as the round progresses, a stark contrast to traditional competitive golf. Even LIV at its inception did not continue to play music while players were hitting. But after the Portland incident, players were surveyed and voted to continue with the music to enhance the atmosphere, said a person familiar with the matter.

Shortly after the tournament began, Mr. Trump’s focus was back on his golf game. He is Mr. Was hitting balls on the driving range with Al-Rumayun.

Write to Andrew Beaton at [email protected]

Donald Trump with Spain’s Sergio Garcia.


photo:

Rich Gressel/Zuma Press

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