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Donald Trump Says PGA Tour ‘Mishandled’ Decisions Around LIV Golf

After a pro-am at his course, which hosts this week's LIV Golf finale, the former president suggested the R&A wants to go back to Turnberry for a British Open. The R&A has said otherwise.
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DORAL, Fla. — Saying more “big names’’ are headed to LIV Golf, former president Donald Trump criticized the PGA Tour on Thursday for its handling of the rival circuit backed by the Saudi Arabia wealth fund.

Trump also suggested that the R&A would like to return the British Open to his Turnberry course in Scotland; in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, the R&A said it would not be holding events there “in the foreseeable future."

Trump, who played in the pro-am at his Trump National Doral Golf Club, where the LIV Invitational Series Miami event begins Friday, spoke with reporters briefly afterward.

Former President Donald Trump walks to the 18th green during the pro-am before the LIV Golf Invitational Miami.

Two events in LIV Golf's inaugural season have been held at Trump-owned golf courses.

“The Tour mishandled it so badly,” Trump said of its decision not to work with LIV but suspend players who participate in LIV Golf events. “The people at the top ... something should happen with them. They mishandled it so badly. They not only had an advantage, they are dealing with very good people with unlimited money. They’re good people with unlimited money. And something could have been worked out very easily.

“And the Tour decided to go, as Richard Nixon said, to stonewall it. That didn’t work out too well for them. As we said before, what they did is bad for golf. They could have had something so incredible. And now they’ve punched into the pension fund in order to lift up prize money. And the players are not happy with that, the pension fund. So it’s going to be very interesting.

“And by the way, a lot of other people are coming over. Big names. You know that. The star system is always very important in sports. Whether it’s sports or anything else. And they’ve got the stars."

LIV Golf has been a disruptive force in golf this year, staging its eighth and final event of the season at Doral, which had a PGA Tour event from 1962 through 2016 but left when a title sponsor could not be secured. It moved to Mexico City, where the WGC-Mexico Championship was played before reverting to a regular Tour event this year.

When the move was announced in 2016, Trump noted that he hoped the PGA Tour had “kidnapping insurance,” and suggested it was done for political reasons. Trump was running for president when the change was announced and was not yet the Republican nominee.

Then PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said the move was made because no title sponsor could be found in Miami.

“They did not want to go to Mexico,” Trump said. “They went and that did not work too well.”

The WGC-Mexico Championship was played from 2017 to ’20, then in ’21 moved to Bradenton, Fla., due to the pandemic. It resumed this year as the Mexico Open.

Trump suggested that PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and officials should have met with the leaders of LIV Golf including the Public Investment Fund, the Saudi wealth fund that is bankrolling the enterprise with $25 million purses for its first seven events and a $50 million purse this week for the Team Championship. The fund also paid for guaranteed contracts to numerous players, including Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia—the pros in Trump’s 18-hole round Thursday.

As for Trump’s assertion that the PGA Tour is dipping into its pension fund to increase purses, Monahan said at the Tour Championship in August that 12 elevated events that will see increased purses up to $20 million are being funded with a combination of title sponsor funds and Tour reserves.

Trump referred to LIV Golf as “big time. They actually love golf. The Saudis have done a fantastic job. You hear the music, a lot of different things. But this [pro-am] was a lot of fun. And I think they’re going to have a really good time.

“I think this is great for golf. I think the Tour really blew a great opportunity. They missed it by so much. Now they’re in such a different position.’’

Trump’s course at Doral and one at Bedminster, N.J., have been sites for LIV events this year, with his course outside of Washington, D.C., expected to get another next year. Asked about Turnberry, his Scottish venue that has hosted the Open four times but none since 2009, Trump said, “We are being very careful with Turnberry.”

There have been rumblings that LIV Golf might want to play an event there, but Trump said he is still hoping for an Open and that the R&A “wants to go back.’’

In the wake of the Jan. 6 attacks, the R&A released a statement saying that “we had no plans to stage any of our championships at Turnberry and will not do so in the foreseeable future. We will not return until we are convinced that the focus will be on the championship, the players and the course itself and we do not believe that is achievable in the current circumstances.’’

R&A officials reiterated Friday that its position has not changed.

Turnberry is one of 10 courses in the Open rotation.