Trump says Saudi-funded tour creates ‘gold rush’ for players

BEDMINSTER, NJ –

The former president of the United States, Donald Trump, played another round this Thursday on his home field, this one different from so many others. He was part of the Saudi-funded pro-am LIV Golf Invitational, organized by a breakaway league that he says is creating a “gold rush” for players.

LIV Golf’s third event, which begins Friday at Trump National Bedminster, added four new players to the 48-player field that illustrated how the disruption goes beyond the PGA Tour.

Sweden’s Henrik Stenson is among the newcomers, who spearheaded the European tour to strip him of the Ryder Cup captaincy for the 2023 matches in Italy.

Stenson learned during his press conference from a report in The Daily Telegraph, later paired by Golf Digest, that Luke Donald would be Europe’s captain.

“I don’t feel like I’ve given up,” Stenson said. “I made every possible arrangement here to be able to fulfill my captain duties, and I’ve had tremendous help here from LIV to be able to do that. And yet, the decision was made to be removed. I’m obviously disappointed in the situation.” . But it is what it is, and yes, we moved on from there.”

By adding Stenson (the other three were Paul Casey, Charles Howell III and Jason Kokrak), LIV Golf now has 12 former major champions on its roster, though only five in the top 50 in the world rankings.

“You really have the best players in the world, a lot of the best players, and soon you probably will have them all,” said Trump, who played in the pro-am with Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, along with his son. , Eric.

“Remember this, if there is a merger (between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour), the people who didn’t come will never get anything but a thank you from the people who took advantage of them.”

There is no talk on the PGA Tour about a possible merger. Commissioner Jay Monahan said last month that while the tour welcomes some healthy competition: “The LIV Saudi Golf League is not that. It’s an irrational threat, not concerned with return on investment or true value.” growth of the game.

Trump felt slighted when a World Golf Championship left his Trump National Doral course near Miami after 2016 when a replacement title sponsor could not be found.

Backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, LIV Golf has been dishing out a lot of money: various reports put total signing fees at around US$1 billion so far. The PGA Tour has suspended players who join for violating rules requiring a release to play abroad. Does not award releases for tournaments held in North America.

Prize money at LIV Golf events is $25 million, with the winner receiving $4 million. Last place in the 54-hole no-cut events is guaranteed at $120,000.

“Now they have an alternative and no one would have known there was going to be a gold rush like this,” Trump said.

Trump and his senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, cultivated very close relations with the Saudi crown prince while Trump was in office.

And many criticized the administration’s response to human rights concerns as not being strong enough, particularly after the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and the repeated concerns expressed about civilian deaths in the Saudi-led war in Yemen against the Iranian-backed rebels.

LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman has said he would support any player who decided to challenge the suspension in court. That has yet to happen on the PGA Tour, although Ian Poulter and Branden Grace were among four players allowed to play at the Scottish Open when a British judge issued a temporary ban against suspensions from the European Tour.

Poulter and Lee Westwood said they are not yet clear on the European tour about future tournaments or their eligibility for the Ryder Cup.

Europe’s point system normally starts in September.

“I’m still eligible to play on the European tour. I don’t think I’ve been banned from playing any events,” Westwood said, adding that the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth is still on his agenda. “I haven’t had any correspondence about that. It’s an event, a qualifying event, for the European Ryder Cup team.”

The European tour’s flagship event will take place September 8-11 in south London, a week after a LIV Golf event outside of Boston and a week before the LIV event in suburban Chicago.

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