LIV Golf is coming to Bedminster and Trump is playing host and 18 holes

BEDMINSTER, N.J. — Walking by Donald Trump as he plays golf is a lot like watching his presidency: He tells you how well he’s doing, mistakes are overlooked, and the only constant is the endless stream of group photos where Trump carefully flashes a toothy smile and thumbs up.

It was as entertaining, revealing and inexplicable as it sounds.

On Thursday, Trump played in a pro-am tournament ahead of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf event he is hosting this weekend at the luxury golf course he built in northwestern New Jersey. The outing was meant to bring together some celebrities and everyday golf pros, and Trump was naturally among the first group of the day.

While Trump has played plenty of rounds of golf as president, few other than guests have been able to witness him play golf during his four years in the White House. The news media was kept at a distance. But on Thursday, nearly 50 members of the tournament-credentialed media — as well as some event officials — followed Trump on foot through 18 holes.

Trump’s golf party, which included security, drove dozens of golf carts, mostly two-wheelers. But there was one cart that was predominantly occupied by one person, and he was the only former president behind the wheel.

For the Pro-Am, Trump was grouped with two of the top players who moved to the rival LIV Golf circuit from the PGA Tour: Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, who have won three major championships between them.

About 15 minutes late at 10 a.m., Trump took to the first jersey, dressed in a white shirt and black pants and sweating profusely under his signature MAGA hat. He looked pale. To be fair, Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, which has little shade, wasn’t comfortable walking the greens on a humid day in the mid-90s.

Stepping onto the tea, Trump quickly became the focus of more than a few photos. He arranged the arrangement of the people in the picture, often giving directions as to who should stand where, like a concierge in photo ops.

Finally, it was time to start the round and Trump’s opening drive was limited to the left rough. But for a 76-year-old, it was a respectable distance of about 220 yards.

The format of the pro-am was that each group would select the best tee shot and then play a second shot from that spot. On the rest of the hole they had to play their own ball wherever they rested. It was often impossible to assign exact scores to either player, but on the par-4 first hole, Trump needed five strokes to get the ball into the hole for bogey.

But on the second hole, Trump set the telling rhythm of the day’s journey, and he defied the polite golf protocol of waiting your turn.

After the second shot, Trump ignored the other players in his group who hadn’t yet had a shot, jumped into his cart and roared forward. He stopped it a few feet from the putting surface (not as well, as it can damage the delicate short grass in that area). Halfway behind Trump on the hole, Johnson called ahead because he had yet to play his second shot and could hit the former president close to the green.

Trump put his cart in reverse and moved out of range. But his style of play continued for much of the round. Often Trump would hole out while his playing companions were still in the green 125 yards away.

After several holes, Trump paused to speak to reporters. He was asked how much he could make by hosting a LIV Golf tournament at his course.

“That’s not what I’m doing. I do it because I think it’s good for golf,” he said.

Trump smiled.

“The main thing is that we all play well,” he said.

For that moment, Trump registered, at best, one piece. He also didn’t finish the hole after his blast from the bunker failed to reach the green and was lodged in some nasty rough. Instead, he took the ball from his shot and headed for the next tee. On another hole, when Chitchik rolled 6 feet to the side of the hole, he casually lifted the ball up to finish the hole, seemingly giving himself a par. Try it this weekend against your usual back four. or any four.

At other times, Trump’s wrong shot would simply be ignored. As if hearing the drill, his caddy would simply pull the golf ball out of the sand or deep rough and drive forward.

However, Trump put on a sunny face. It involved a scene he hadn’t anticipated. As he teed off on the par-3, 176-yard hole on the Big Pond, he was approached by three comedians who were conducting what the pro called the “Back Off Challenge” in concert with LIV Golf. The idea was that the comedians, whose project is called Country Club Adjacent, would try to insult, taunt or insult each golfer to see if they would backslide the putt before hitting it. The scenes were filmed for the band’s various social media outlets.

Trump agreed to play along.

As he stood over the ball, one comedian, Blake Webber, said, “What would your fans say if you hit that left?”

Jake Adams said, “You build a golf course only to miss the green?”

And finally, from Griff Pippin: “Your swing looks broken. Made in China?”

Trump did not drown. But he shot into the water.

Trump then posed for a group photo with the comedians. He stopped the blow and smiled, giving a simultaneous thumbs up.

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