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Trump Criticizes PGA Tour and Praises Saudis for Backing LIV Golf

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BEDMINSTER, N.J. — Donald J. Trump praised the Saudi Arabian backers of a controversial recent golf tournament Thursday, calling them his friends, while criticizing the standard PGA Tour.

The previous president, wearing a white golf shirt and his signature red baseball cap emblazoned together with his familiar campaign slogan, spoke briefly before teeing off within the pro-am segment of the LIV Golf event on the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., which he owns.

“I’ve known these people for a very long time in Saudi Arabia they usually have been friends of mine for a very long time,” Trump said after taking practice swings on the driving range. “They’ve invested in lots of American firms. They own big percentages of many, many American firms and albeit, what they’re doing for golf is so great, what they’re doing for the players is so great. The salaries are going to go way up.”

The LIV Golf series is bankrolled by the sovereign wealth fund, which is overseen by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In 2018, during Trump‘s presidency, American intelligence officials concluded that Prince Mohammed had authorized the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and journalist with the Washington Post. Trump, who criticized the Saudis on the campaign trail before his election in 2016, resisted their conclusions.

The Bedminster club had previously been scheduled to host the P.G.A. Championship in 2022, however the P.G.A. of America moved it to Oklahoma after the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, saying that holding it at Bedminster can be “detrimental to the P.G.A. of America brand.” (The P.G.A. of America, which is separate from the PGA Tour, later reached a settlement with the Trump Organization.) Since then, Trump has sided with the upstart golf tour.

A Quick Guide to the LIV Golf Series

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A recent 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 into 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, akin 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 speculated 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.

It is just not known how much LIV Golf organizers paid Trump for the usage of his club for the 54-hole tournament, the tour’s third event. But players who’ve defected to the lucrative tour have been guaranteed large sums and have resigned or been suspended from the PGA Tour for taking part in in it. As of now, LIV golfers can still play within the 4 major tournaments, which aren’t run by the PGA Tour, although that would change in the long run.

“The PGA was not loved by plenty of the players, as you already know, for a very long time,” Trump said. “Now they’ve another and no one ever would have known it was going to be a gold rush, like this. I believe no one ever knew that they were going to be paying signing bonuses. The prize money was going to be much higher, you already know, 4, five, six times higher. So, as an alternative of one million dollars you win five or seven or eight. Quite a lot of money and it’s even going up. However the PGA Tour hasn’t acted well.”

During a temporary interview with a handful of reporters before he went to the practice putting green, Trump was asked about protests involving the families of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The protesters, who plan to stage a counter event on Friday at the identical time the fundamental tournament starts, imagine, together with others, that the Saudi government backed the organizers of the attacks.

“Well, no one’s gotten to the underside of 9/11, unfortunately,” Trump said. “They need to have. As to the maniacs that did that horrible thing to our city, to our country, to the world, so no one’s really been there.”

Trump was scheduled to play in Thursday’s event in a bunch that included skilled golfers Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Governor of the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, and his son Eric Trump.

“I’ll never feel like an extended hitter with that group,” he said.

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