LIV Golf’s Ties to Donald Trump Could Get Even Stronger
- LIV Golf hosted its third tournament this past weekend at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
- Throughout the event, it at times felt like Trump was the biggest star that LIV had to offer.
- LIV already is set to host another event on a Trump course in October, and it could schedule more for next year.
LIV Golf hosted its third tournament over the weekend at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Throughout the weekend, the former president was an active participant, from teeing it up in the pro-am on Thursday alongside Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, to standing on the stage for the trophy presentation after Henrik Stenson won the tournament.
While the action on the golf course was meant to be the draw for fans coming to the tony New York City suburb, there were several moments on Sunday that made it feel like — despite the big money given out to attract some of the biggest names in the sport — Trump was the biggest star LIV had to offer.
As the former President watched from the first tee, chants of “Four more years!” broke out early in the day. Ahead of the trophy presentation, the crowd chanted “Let’s go, Brandon!” — a political slogan and Internet meme meant to deride President Joe Biden — much to the delight of Trump, as well as Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who had joined him in the clubhouse above the masses.
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It was the first time that LIV had hosted an event at a Trump property, but it is already assured to not be the last, as the league is set to play its finale to the 2022 season at Trump National Doral in Miami this October.
According to longtime golf writer Alan Shipnuck, the numbers are a bit murky when it comes to just how much Trump was paid to host this past weekend’s event. “Trump Bedminster was paid $2.8 million (according to the Trump Organization) or $4.5 million (according to club members),” Shipnuck wrote in his recap of the event.
But whatever Trump is being paid, it clearly has already been worth it to the people doing the paying.
LIV Golf is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds with an estimated $620 billion in assets under management. The emergence of the league has been assessed by many as a practice in sportswashing, wherein Saudi Arabia is attempting to launder its reputation on the international stage through the public’s love of sport. If that is their goal, Trump has already proven a useful ally.
Before the start of LIV Bedminster, Trump was already expounding on the success of the new league.
“I think LIV has been a great thing for Saudi Arabia, for the image of Saudi Arabia,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal. “I think it’s going to be an incredible investment from that standpoint, and that’s more valuable than lots of other things because you can’t buy that — even with billions of dollars.”
Trump also downplayed the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, despite a declassified US intelligence report released last year explicitly implicating Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Khashoggi’s killing.
“I can say that from the standpoint of Khashoggi, that has died down so much,” Trump said. “It really seems to have totally died down.”
At Bedminster, Trump’s support of LIV only became more clear, as he glad-handed his way around the course and roused the crowd, many of whom were themselves sporting Trump shirts or “Make America Great Again” hats.
Like LIV, Trump also craves legitimacy, especially in the realm of sport.
Before LIV came about, Trump Bedminster was scheduled to host the 2022 PGA Championship. But after the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, the PGA of America, a separate entity from the PGA Tour that runs the PGA Championship, decided it best to relocate the tournament.
Before that, Trump had taken control of Turnberry, an historic course in the United Kingdom that had hosted the Open Championship on several occasions. Since Trump took control of the course, the R&A has made it clear that the course would not be hosting the battle for the Claret Jug.
It’s not hard to imagine that Trump feeling spurned by the PGA Tour was a motivating factor for his public support of LIV.
Further, in addition to LIV’s commitment to Trump, Saudi Arabia’s PIF also put $2 billion into Jared Kushner’s private equity firm. With the PIF already so committed to financing one project close to Trump, it’s possible that more could follow.
LIV’s event in Miami is on the horizon, where the former president could once again serve as the star of the show. Looking forward, LIV has announced that it will be expanding from eight to 14 events in 2023.
“Trump is pushing hard to host more events, including one at Turnberry,” Shipnuck wrote. “That would be a big middle finger to another group of golf tastemakers who have rejected him, the tweedy gents at the R&A.”
While still in its early stages, it feels like Trump and LIV could continue to be allies moving forward.
In Trump, LIV gains legitimacy through the support of a former president, national interviews with Tucker Carlson, and the potential for a built-in fanbase of people who are excited by backing Trump’s part in another project viewed as a battle against the establishment.
In LIV, Trump gets millions for hosting, more attention for his golf courses, the adoration of supportive crowds in a relatively controlled environment, and the chance to play a round on his own courses with some of the best players in the world.
What more could either side want?