BEDMINSTER, N.J. — Walking alongside Donald Trump as he plays golf is loads like watching his presidency: He tells you the way well he’s doing, mistakes are disregarded and the one constant is an infinite stream of group photos with Trump blithely flashing a toothy grin and a thumbs up.
It was as entertaining, revealing and inexplicable because it sounds.
On Thursday, Trump was a contestant within the pro-am tournament on the eve of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf event he’s hosting this weekend on the lavish golf course he inbuilt northwestern Recent Jersey. The intent of the outing was to team some celebrities and on a regular basis golfers with the professionals, and Trump was, naturally, within the featured first grouping of the day.
While Trump played a plethora of golf rounds as president, apart from his guests, few were in a position to witness his golf game during his 4 years within the White House. The news media was kept at a removed distance. But on Thursday, nearly 50 media members credentialed for the tournament — in addition to some event officials — would accompany Trump on foot for 18 holes.
Trump’s golfing party, which included security, drove in a dozen golf carts, generally two to a cart. But there was one cart predominantly occupied by a single person, and it was the one ex-president on the property on the wheel.
For the pro-am, Trump was grouped with two of one of the best players to defect to the rival LIV Golf circuit from the PGA Tour: Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, who’ve won three major championships between them.
About quarter-hour late for his 10 a.m. tee time, Trump stepped onto the primary tee wearing a white shirt and black pants and sweating profusely under his signature MAGA hat. He looked pale. To be fair, at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, which has little shade, nobody walking the grounds on a moist day with temperatures within the mid-90s was comfortable.
Stepping onto the tee, Trump quickly became the point of interest of greater than a handful of photos. He would organize the lineup of the people in the image, often giving instructions on who should stand where, like a concierge of photo ops.
Finally, it was time to start out the round, and Trump’s opening drive bounded into the left rough. Nevertheless it was a decent distance from the tee for a 76-year-old, roughly 220 yards.
A Quick Guide to the LIV Golf Series
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A latest series. The launch of recent Saudi-financed LIV Golf series has resurfaced longstanding questions on athletes’ moral obligations and their desire to compete and earn money. Here’s what to know:
What’s LIV Golf? The series is an upstart skilled golf circuit bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Its organizers hope to position it as a player-power-focused alternative to the PGA Tour, which has been the very best level of professional golf for nearly a century.
Why is the brand new series controversial? The event has created sparks inside golf for upending the traditions and strictures of how the sport is played. It has also turn out to be a lightning rod for human rights campaigners who accuse Saudi Arabia of using sports to launder its status.
Who’s playing it? A lot of the most important names in golf, equivalent to Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, have stayed away from LIV Golf. But several big names and former major champions, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio García, joined. Henrik Stenson of Sweden, who was imagined to lead Europe’s team on the 2023 Ryder Cup, was removed as captain after announcing his move to the series.
What’s attracting the players? The LIV Golf events are the richest tournaments in golf history. The primary tournament’s total purse was $25 million, and the winner’s share was $4 million. The last-place finisher at each event was guaranteed $120,000. That’s on top of the looks fees and nine-figure signing-on payouts some players have accepted.
The format for the pro-am was that every group would choose one of the best tee shot after which play their second shots from that spot. For the remaining of the opening, they were expected to play their very own ball, wherever it got here to rest. It often made it unimaginable to assign exact scores for any player, but on the par-4 first hole, Trump needed five strokes to get his ball in the opening for a bogey.
But on the second hole, a telling rhythm for the day’s journey was set by Trump, and it defied the polite golf protocol of waiting your turn.
After hitting his second shot to the green, Trump ignored other players in his group who had yet to hit and jumped into his cart and roared ahead. He parked inside a couple of feet of the putting surface (also a no-no since it might damage the fragile short grass in that area). Standing in the golf green half a hole behind Trump, Johnson yelled ahead since he had yet to play his second shot and will have beaned the previous president near the green.
Trump put his cart in reverse and moved out of range. But his barge-ahead sort of play continued for much of the round. Often, Trump had putted out on a hole while his playing companions were still 125 yards away in the golf green.
A number of holes later, Trump stopped to speak with a gaggle of reporters. He was asked how much he could earn by hosting the LIV Golf tournament at his course.
“I don’t do it for that. I do it because I believe it’s good for golf,” he said.
“The necessary thing is that we’re all playing well,” he said.
By that time, Trump had registered, at best, one par. He had also not finished a hole after his blast from a bunker had failed to achieve the green and was nestled in some nasty rough. As a substitute, he had his caddie pick up the ball and march to the following tee. On one other hole, when a birdie putt rolled nearly six feet past the opening, he casually scooped the ball as much as end the opening, apparently conceding himself a par. Try that this weekend in your match along with your usual foursome. Or any foursome.
At other times, a Trump mis-hit would simply be ignored. As if understanding the drill, his caddie would simply retrieve the golf ball from the sand or deep rough and walk forward.
Trump, nevertheless, did exhibit a sunny countenance throughout. That included a scene that he couldn’t have expected. As he stepped onto the tee of a par-3, 176-yard hole over a big pond, he was approached by three comedians who, in concert with LIV Golf, were conducting what they called the “Back Off Challenge” throughout the pro-am. The thought was that the comedians, whose project is named Country Club Adjoining, would attempt to insult, mock or harass each golfer on the tee to see in the event that they would back off from the shot before hitting it. The scenes were being videotaped for the group’s various social media networks.
Trump agreed to play along.
As he stood over the ball, one among the comedians, Blake Webber, said: “What would your following say should you hit this one left?”
Said Jake Adams: “You built a golf course simply to miss the green?”
And eventually, from Griff Pippin: “Your swing looks broken. Was it made in China?”
Trump didn’t flinch. But he did slice his shot into the water.
Then, Trump posed with the comedians for a gaggle picture. He paused a beat and smiled while concurrently raising his right thumb.