Former President Donald Trump wasted little time Thursday in saying that the PGA Tour is “making a big mistake” in not finding a way to better co-exist with LIV Golf.
Trump played in the pro-am of LIV Golf’s $50 million Team Championship alongside Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia. It’s the eighth and final event of the inaugural season of the LIV Golf Invitational series, which starts Friday at Trump National Doral.
Trump spoke with reporters beside the 18th green at the Blue Monster course, which from 1962 to 2016 hosted a PGA Tour event won by the likes LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. The tour left Trump’s Doral property in 2017 for a new venue and sponsor in Mexico, which the former president viewed as an insult. This is the second LIV event hosted by a Trump-owned course; the first came at Trump National Bedminster in July.
On Thursday, Trump criticised the PGA Tour for banning its players who had gone to LIV Golf, insisting the established tour should have worked with LIV, which is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
“The tour mishandled it so badly,” Trump said. “The people at the top … something should happen with them. They mishandled it so badly. They not only had an advantage, they are dealing with very good people [Saudi investors] with unlimited money. They’re good people with unlimited money. And something could have been worked out very easily.”
Beyond holding LIV events at his golf courses, Trump, as well as other members of his family and businesses, have acted in ways partial to the Saudi government and the PIF. The private-equity company run by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, reportedly has received a $US2 billion investment from the PIF.
Additionally, the Saudi regime has been widely criticised for human rights abuses, its links to the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S. and its involvement in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Saudi investment in LIV has been consider by some as an attempt at “sportswashing,” an exercise that, particularly when used by state-run groups, is considered a form of propaganda to distract the public from its abuses.
Among the biggest names to have joined LIV are world No.3 Cameron Smith, whose three PGA Tour wins this year included its flagship event, the Players Championship, and the Open Championship at St. Andrews. LIV also signed Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Joaquin Niemann and Patrick Reed, among others.
In response to the growing threat of LIV, the PGA Tour announced in August that its biggest stars will commit to a 20-event schedule next year including 12 elevated events boasting purses of at least $20 million.
Despite the added bonuses and revenue opportunities available next year on the PGA Tour, Trump declared that more tour stars would defect to LIV in the near future.
“And by the way, a lot of other people are coming over,” Trump said. “Big names. You know that. The star system is always very important in sports. Whether it’s sports or anything else. And they’ve got the stars.”
Whether progress can be made in the future, however, only time will tell.
Trump said: “I think that ultimately maybe something gets worked out, but the tour mishandled that so badly.”