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Trump Criticizes PGA Tour and Praises Saudis for Backing LIV Golf

BEDMINSTER, NJ — Donald J. Trump praised Saudi donors to a controversial new golf tournament Thursday, calling them his friends, while criticizing the traditional PGA Tour.

Dressed in a white golf shirt and his signature red baseball cap emblazoned with his signature campaign slogan, the former president spoke shortly before teeing off in the pro-am segment of the LIV Golf event at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ, which he owns.

“I’ve known these people in Saudi Arabia for a long time and they’ve been friends of mine for a long time,” Trump said after doing practice swings on the driving range. “They have invested in many American companies. They own huge percentages of many, many American companies and frankly, what they do for golf is so great, what they do for the players is so great. Salaries are going up.”

The LIV Golf series is funded by the sovereign wealth fund, which is overseen by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In 2018, during the Trump presidency, US intelligence concluded that Prince Mohammed had authorized the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and journalist at the Washington Post. Trump, who criticized the Saudis on the campaign path ahead of his 2016 election, opposed their conclusions.

The Bedminster club was previously scheduled to host the PGA Championship in 2022, but the PGA of America moved it to Oklahoma after the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, saying keeping it in Bedminster “would be harmful.” for the American brand PGA.” (The PGA 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.

It is not known how much the organizers of LIV Golf Trump paid for the use of his club for the 54-hole tournament, the third event of the tour. But players who defected to the lucrative tour have been guaranteed large sums of money and have been resigned or suspended from the PGA Tour for playing in it. As of now, LIV golfers can still play in the four major tournaments, which are not hosted by the PGA Tour, although that could change in the future.

“The PGA was not liked by many players for a long time, as you know,” Trump said. “Now they have an alternative and no one ever knew it was going to be a gold rush like this one. I don’t think anyone ever knew they would pay signing bonuses. The prize money would be much higher, you know, four, five, six times higher. So instead of a million dollars, you win five or seven or eight. A lot of money and it even goes up. But the PGA Tour has not acted well.”

During a brief interview with a handful of reporters before going to 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 same time as the main draw begins, believe, along with others, that the Saudi government supported the organizers of the attacks.

“Well, unfortunately no one got to the bottom of 9/11,” Trump said. “They should have. As for the maniacs who have done terrible things to our city, our country and the world, so no one has really been there.”

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

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

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