On 18 holes, Trump praises LIV Golf, its Saudi backers and its own courses

During his four years in office, former President Donald Trump visited the Trump National Golf Club outside of Washington more than 100 times, according to TrumpGolfCount.com, which meticulously tracked those outings. Since then, Trump has still played a lot of golf – but not on the private course he owns in Loudoun County, about 25 miles from the White House.

“I used to play there a bit when I was in power. It’s 22 minutes from the White House. I miss it,” he said. “I haven’t seen him for a while.”

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Even as a myriad of court cases, criminal investigations and the presidential campaign swirl around him, Trump returned to his Northern Virginia course on Thursday to play in a pro-am tournament ahead of the LIV Golf event which will will be held Friday through Sunday at Trump National. While he had plenty to say about recent political headlines while chatting with reporters between drives and putts – from the launch of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ Republican presidential campaign (“a disaster”) to the investigation into his handling of classified documents (“a jerk job”) – Trump focused primarily on golf. He praised the Saudi benefactors who fund LIV while hurling criticism at the PGA Tour, which is battling the controversial league that has come to federal court.

“I suspect the Tour is going to want to merge very soon, because they can’t go on like this,” Trump predicted.

Meanwhile, the future of LIV Golf, which is six events into its first full season and has struggled to keep the focus on its actual golf product, is “good”, according to the former president, partly because his Saudi benefactors have particularly deep pockets.

“Unlimited money. I think the Tour made a major mistake playing games,” he said. “They have unlimited money, and they love it, and it’s been great publicity for Saudi Arabia.”

Trump aligned closely with LIV. Its courses hosted two events last year and will host three this season. Thursday marked the third pro-am LIV event for Trump, who played alongside Patrick Reed for nine holes and then Graeme McDowell for the final nine. Eric Trump and Bob Koepka – father of Brooks Koepka, winner of the PGA Championship last weekend – rounded out the group.

Hosting LIV events is believed to be a lucrative arrangement for Trump, although neither party has revealed details. Trump played down the impact on his own bank account, calling it “peanuts for me”, and said he didn’t think the Saudis were doing anything untoward by lining the pockets of a former president — and the Republican front-runner for the 2024 election.

“They’re paying rental fees. They want to use my properties because they’re the best properties,” Trump said. “There is no property like this.”

The relationship has drawn ire from critics, including some families of 9/11 victims who protested at LIV events and this month wrote a letter to Trump asking for a reunion at his class.

“I totally understand them and we love them,” Trump said of the 9/11 families. “But it’s huge economic development, huge number of jobs, just for an event like this – it’s a big event. Huge number of jobs. But I completely understand them, actually.”

Trump spent much of his tour bragging about his courses, particularly the Trump National, a long and expansive course that hugs the Potomac River. He called it the best club in the Washington area, better than the Congressional Country Club, which has hosted three US Opens.

“It blows Congress away . . . Congress can’t compete with that,” Trump said.

Bravado aside, Trump’s courses haven’t hosted a major championship. The Virginia course hosted the 2017 Senior PGA Championship, and the PGA of America was supposed to hold its 2022 PGA Championship at its course in Bedminster, NJ, but it stripped Trump of the honors five days after the Jan. 6 uprising.

“They must have paid me a lot of money, as you know,” he said. “It was a stupid thing and I guarantee you if they had to do it again they wouldn’t have done it.”

Trump said he was hopeful, if not confident, that one of his properties would still host a major.

“They love the courses,” he said of golf’s governing bodies. “But I think they probably see me as a bit controversial right now, which is silly. You can make a lot of money out of controversy. They love the classes. They really like me, but they don’t want to have to say that publicly.”

Trump’s play was steady Thursday in the modified best-ball scramble event, which was closed to the public. He took selfies with volunteers and was friends with the small group of spectators inside the club’s gates.

This weekend’s event will be LIV’s first since Koepka won his fifth major, cementing the LIV brand. It also comes as sports stakeholders debate whether to include Tour golfers in the Ryder Cup.

“It hurts the Ryder Cup terribly. You have so many players – the greatest players,” Trump said. “And there are other big signings in the works, from what I hear. Really, really big signings. Like, really big. Better than the top 10. That’s just what I hear. “

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