The Who song “I Can’t Explain” blared over the loudspeakers at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., on Thursday morning. In the context, it seemed a perfect choice. It would not have been possible, even a decade ago, to be where we are today in golf and the wider world. One would not have believed that, 10 years ago, an independent golf tour funded by Saudi Arabia would be hosted by Trump in New York City. The House Committee would host a series of prime-time hearings on Trump’s role in the rebellion at Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021.
Some of the world’s best and most famous golfers, like Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, would join him in this rogue operation, after receiving many millions of dollars to break ranks. And Charles Barkley—in talks to potentially leave his basketball hosting gig to become a LIV Golf analyst, likely for an insane sum of cash—would also show up.
LIV Golf, the operation backed by Saudi Arabia, will hold the third event of its inaugural season starting tomorrow at Trump National in Bedminster a facility which, during Trump’s years as President, earned the “Summer White House” designation because of how much time Trump spent there. The club had been scheduled to host the PGA Championship in early this year. However, the PGA of America declared that it would be moving the major event after Jan. 6’s events. Justin Thomas was the winner of the 2022 PGA Championship in Tulsa Okla. Trump Administration came under fire for supporting the Saudi Kingdom and its de facto leader Prince Mohammed bin Salman after Jamal Khashoggi’s murder at Istanbul’s Saudi consulate. U.S. intelligence concluded that bin Salman approved the operation leading to Khashoggi’s grizzly death.
An assortment of relatives of victims of 9/11 also attacked Trump for being associated with LIV Golf. In a letter dated Sunday, the group 9/11 Justice expressed “deep pain and anger” over Trump’s decision to host the tournament. “It is incomprehensible to us, Mr. Trump, that a former president of the United States would cast our loved ones aside for personal financial gain,” the group wrote. On Friday, the group will be staging a demonstration near Trump National as LIV Golf Tournament begins. 15 of the 19 terrorists on 9/11 were Saudi citizens, while Osama bin Laden was born in Saudi Arabia. The government repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack. Members of 9/11 Justice, and other critics, have accused Saudi Arabia engaging in “sportswashing,” using LIV Golf to distract from the country’s human rights record.
After warming up at his driving range before the LIV Golf pro-am on Thursday, when asked what he would say to the 9/11 families, Trump responded, “Well, nobody has gotten to the bottom of 9/11, unfortunately. As for the psychopaths responsible for the horrible acts of terror that were perpetrated on our country, city and world, they ought to have. So nobody’s really been there.” He then immediately turned to LIV Golf. “But I can tell you that there are a lot of really great people out here today, and we’re going to have a lot of fun. And we’re going to celebrate.”
Trump mentioned how the tournament was raising money for charity, and how LIV Golf would soon attract all the world’s top players. “It’ll be very interesting,” he said. The president seal was on his cart and he set off in his golf car to begin his round.
Trump was seen chatting up Greg Norman (LIV Golf Commissioner) while working on practice shots. “You’re doing a great job,” Trump said to him. In May, Norman downplayed Khashoggi’s murder. “We’ve all made mistakes,” he said.
Caitlyn Jenner was another celebrity present at the pro-am. She also spoke with Trump. He patted her on the shoulder: “Have a good round,” she shouted at him.
As the January 6 committee moves forward with its work, protests are planned outside the Bedminster club’s walls, and the world braces for Trump’s likely reemergence into presidential politics, Trump relished the Bedminster bubble on Thursday. During the sweaty round—the course was sweltering, in the high 80s—two of his playing partners, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, complimented Trump on his play. “Nice shot, Mr. President,” they said, a lot. Someone asked Trump about an announcement after his first tee-shot. “You’re going to be so happy,” Trump said. “We’ll let you know pretty soon.” His fourth playing partner, son Eric, rode around with a Trump 2024 golf bag.
“This course blows every other course away,” he said. Trump was happy to have made a par on the Par 8th hole. “Nice birdie!” he announced while driving off the tee. “No President could ever hit that,” he boasted after a solid tee shot on 13.
He felt good and he reached out to Johnson, DeChambeau for a chat. Trump was amazed at the number of tournaments Gary Player had won. Trump presented Player with a Presidential Medal of Freedom in January 2021. “He does like the women, I can tell you that,” Trump told the pros. “Gary likes those women.”
Trump took pictures of his teammates, friends and volunteers along the road, enjoying the attention. His signature pose was a smiley, toothy smile with thumbs up. Young course workers clustered together around him, taking a group photo. “Nobody has COVID, right?” he asked.
The pro-am event was closed to the general public, but Trump didn’t seem to mind the lack of fans. “Keeps it a little exclusive,” Trump said.
Read More From Time