Trump criticizes the PGA Tour and praises the Saudis for supporting LIV Golf

BEDMINSTER, NJ — Donald J. Trump on Thursday praised Saudi backers of a controversial new golf tournament, calling them his friends, while criticizing the traditional PGA Tour.

The former president, dressed in a white golf shirt and his signature red baseball cap emblazoned with his familiar campaign slogan, spoke briefly before teeing off in the pro-am segment of the LIV Golf event at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ, which he owns.

“I’ve known these people for a long time in Saudi Arabia and they’ve been my friends for a long time,” Trump said after practicing at the driving range. “They have invested in many American companies. They own big percentages in many, many American companies and frankly, what they do for golf is so great, what they do for the players is so great. Wages will skyrocket. »

The LIV Golf series is financed by the sovereign wealth fund, which is overseen by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In 2018, during Trump’s presidency, US intelligence officials concluded that Prince Mohammed authorized the killing of jamal khashoggi, Saudi dissident and journalist for the Washington Post. Trump, who criticized the Saudis on the campaign trail before his election in 2016, resisted their conclusions.

The Bedminster club was previously scheduled to host the PGA Championship in 2022, but the PGA of America moved him to Oklahoma after the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, saying holding it in Bedminster would be “detrimental to the PGA of America brand”. (The PGA of America, which is separate from the PGA Tour, later struck a deal with the Trump Organization.) Since then, Trump has sided with the upstart golf tour.

It’s unclear how much LIV Golf organizers paid Trump for the use of his club for the 54-hole tournament, the tour’s third event. But players who defected to the lucrative tour were guaranteed large sums and either resigned or were suspended from the PGA Tour for playing there. At present, LIV golfers can still play in all four major tournaments, which are not hosted by the PGA Tour, although this may change in the future.

“The PGA was not liked by a lot of players, as you know, for a long time,” Trump said. “Now they have an alternative and no one would have ever known it would be a gold rush, like this. I don’t think anyone ever knew they were going to pay signing bonuses. The price in money was going to be much higher, you know, four, five, six times higher. So instead of a million dollars, you make five, seven or eight. A lot of money and it even goes up. But the PGA Tour did not do well.

During a brief interview with a handful of reporters before heading to practice, Trump was asked about the protests involving the families of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The protesters, who plan to organize a counter-event Friday at the same time as the main tournament begins, believe, with others, that the Saudi government supported the organizers of the attacks.

“Well, nobody got to the bottom of the events of 9/11, unfortunately,” Trump said. “They should have. As for the maniacs who did this horrible thing to our city, to our country, to the world, so nobody really went there.

Trump was scheduled to perform at Thursday’s event in a band that included his son Eric Trump; professional golfers Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson; and Yasir al-Rumayyan, the head of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

“I will never feel like a long hitter with this group,” he said.

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