BEDMINSTER, New Jersey. Walking along with Donald Trump playing golf is much like watching his presidency: he tells you how well he is doing, mistakes are ignored, and one constant thing is an endless stream of group photos of Trump nonchalantly flashing a toothy smile and thumb up.
It was as interesting, frank and inexplicable as it seems.
On Thursday, Trump was a professional tournament ahead of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tournament he is hosting this weekend at a luxury golf course he has built in northwest New Jersey. The purpose of the event was to bring celebrities and regular golfers together with the pros, and Trump was naturally in the first group of the day.
Bye Trump has played many rounds of golf as president, other than his guests, few could watch him play golf during his four years in the White House. The media kept their distance. But on Thursday, nearly 50 media representatives authorized to participate in the tournament, as well as some event officials, will accompany Trump on foot for 18 holes.
Trump’s golfing group, which included security, drove into a dozen golf carts, usually two per cart. But there was one cart, in which one person mostly sat, and the only ex-president on the site was driving.
For the professional player, Trump was grouped with two of the best players to move to the rival LIV Golf circuit from the PGA Tour: Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, who together won three major championships.
Approximately 15 minutes late for his 10 a.m. game time, Trump stepped out for the first jersey, wearing a white shirt and black pants and sweating profusely under his signature MAGA cap. He looked pale. To be fair, at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, where there is little shade, no one was comfortable walking on the grounds on a humid day with temperatures in the mid-90s.
Stepping on the T-shirt, Trump quickly became the focus of more than a few photos. He arranged the people in the picture, often giving instructions on who should stand where, such as a concierge or cameraman.
It was finally time to start the round and Trump’s kickoff hit the left rough. But it was a decent distance from the tee for a 76-year-old player, about 220 yards.
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The format for the pro competition was for each group to choose the best tee shot and then throw their second shots from that spot. For the rest of the hole, they were expected to play their ball wherever it stopped. This often made it impossible for any player to determine exact scores, but on the first par-4 hole, it took Trump five shots to get the ball into the ghost hole.
But on the second hole, Trump set the eloquent rhythm of the day’s travel, and it defied the polite protocol of waiting one’s turn in golf.
Landing his second pitch on the lawn, Trump ignored the other players in his group who had yet to strike, jumped into his cart and roared forward. He parked a few feet from the golf course (not allowed either, as it could damage the soft, short grass in that area). Standing halfway behind Trump on the fairway, Johnson yelled ahead as he still had his second shot to go and could have potted the former president close to the green.
Trump put in reverse gear and went out of range. But his forward play style continued for most of the round. Often, Trump was out for the hole when his playmates were still 125 yards away on the fairway.
After a few holes, Trump stopped to talk to a group of reporters. He was asked how much he could earn by hosting a LIV Golf tournament at his home.
“I’m not doing it for that. I’m doing it because I think it’s good for golf,” he said.
“The important thing is that we all play well,” he said.
At that time, Trump registered at best one denomination. He also didn’t finish the hole after his blast from the bunker missed the green and hit a nasty bump. Instead, he had his caddy pick up the ball and walk to the next tee. On another hole, when a birdie hit nearly six feet from the hole, he casually scooped up the ball to close the hole, apparently losing parity. Try it out this weekend in your regular 4-player match. Or any four.
In other cases, Trump’s slip will simply be ignored. As if he understood the essence of the exercise, his caddy simply retrieved the ball from the sand or deep unevenness and walked forward.
Trump, however, showed a happy face all the time. This included a scene that he could not have expected. As he stepped onto the tee of the 176-yard par-3 hole over a large pond, he was approached by three comedians who, along with LIV Golf, were running what they called the “Back Off Challenge.” am. The idea was that the comedians, whose project is called Country Club Adjacent, would try to insult, ridicule or intimidate every golfer on the tee to see if they would back off before hitting it. The scenes were filmed for the band’s various social media platforms.
Trump agreed to play along.
As he stood over the ball, one of the comedians, Blake Webber, said, “What will your followers say if you backhand this one?”
Jake Adams said, “Did you build a golf course just to miss the lawn?”
And finally, from Griff Pippin: “Your swing looks broken. Was it made in China?
Trump didn’t flinch. But he cut his shot into the water.
Trump then posed with the comedians for a group photo. He paused and smiled while raising his right thumb.