Donald Trump welcomes Saudi-backed golf tournament at one of his clubs, escalating years-long feud with ‘very disloyal’ PGA

July 19, 2022, 9:07 PM UTC
1: US President Donald Trump golfs at Trump National Golf Club on November 21, 2020
Donald Trump is hosting a Saudi-backed golf tournament at one of his clubs, angering 9/11 families and survivors.
Tasos Katopodis—Getty Images

If you’re a fan of golf, you’ve surely by now heard of the LIV Golf International Series, the new, big-money Saudi-backed competitor to the PGA Tour that has attracted golf greats Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, on the one hand—and the scorn of fans critical of the Middle Eastern country’s record on human rights on the other.

You might recall it cost Mickelson his 14-year-long sponsorship with KPMG after he said “They’re scary motherf***kers to get involved with” about the Saudis, but then added that LIV is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.” 

Now, less than a month after hosting its first U.S.-based event, LIV is gearing up for its next event on American soil, at none other than former President Donald Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

Trump, who famously spent almost a year’s worth of time golfing while he was president, enjoyed a close relationship with the PGA dating as far back as 2001, and Trump and the PGA announced a “major partnership” in 2014, featuring many events at Trump properties including Bedminster. 

Just a year later, in 2015, the PGA dropped the 2015 Grand Slam of Golf from Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles after Trump made racist remarks about Mexican immigrants on the campaign trail. It then stripped Trump National Doral Miami of the World Golf Championship in 2016, even though the event had been played at the Doral every year since 1962. Trump called it “a sad day for Miami, the United States, and the game of golf.” 

Finally, following the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol in 2021, the PGA announced it would no longer hold its 2022 PGA Championship at Trump’s Bedminster club.

The PGA has treated stars defecting for LIV very similarly. After LIV lured stars including Mickelson, Johnson, Sergio García, and Brooks Koepka by offering contracts as high as $200 million, the PGA suspended all 17 of them. 

On Monday, Trump took to his own social media network Truth Social to voice his support for LIV golfers and criticize the PGA once again. 

“All of those golfers that remain ‘loyal’ to the very disloyal PGA, in all of its different forms, will pay a big price when the inevitable MERGER with LIV comes, and you get nothing but a big ‘thank you’ from PGA officials who are making Millions of Dollars a year,” Trump wrote on Monday. “If you don’t take the money now, you will get nothing after the merger takes place, and only say how smart the original signees were.”

Trump’s clubs are hosting two of the LIV’s U.S. tournaments, including its final team championship tournament in October at Doral Miami. It’s unclear how much money Trump is receiving for hosting the LIV tournament. 

Trump has well-documented close ties to Saudi Arabia, beyond the famously strange photo of him posing with King Salman of Saudi Arabia in front of a glowing orb while he was on a presidential visit. 

Last year, a New York Times report outlined a $2 billion investment from the Saudi crown prince to Trump’s son-in-law and former senior adviser Jared Kushner’s private equity firm, Affinity Partners, just six months after Trump left office. 

Trump’s decision to host the Saudi-backed tournament at his club is facing increasing backlash.

On Sunday, members of 9/11 Justice, a group of 9/11 survivors and victims’ families, sent a letter to the former president, expressing their “extreme pain, frustration, and anger” over Trump’s decision to host the upcoming tournament at his Bedminster club.

“We simply cannot understand how you could agree to accept money from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s golf league to host their tournament at your golf course, and to do so in the shadows of Ground Zero in New Jersey, which lost over 700 residents during the attacks,” the group wrote.

All but four of the 19 attackers on 9/11 were Saudi citizens, and 9/11 architect Osama bin Laden was born in the country. The Saudi government has denied its involvement in the attacks on numerous occasions, and in 2004, the congressionally funded 9/11 Commission said it had found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.” 

Trump has yet to comment on the letter, and Fortune’s requests to contact the former president through his website and through his Bedminster club were unanswered at the time of publication.

In an appearance on Fox News in 2016, which is mentioned in the letter, Trump supported the group’s claim, saying: “Who blew up the World Trade Center? It wasn’t the Iraqis. It was Saudi. Take a look at Saudi Arabia…The people came, most of the people came from Saudi Arabia. They didn’t come from Iraq.”

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