Donald Trump plays with Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau at the LIV Golf pro-am

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BEDMINSTER, NJ – Former President Donald Trump took part in a rare public golf outing Thursday to ceremonially open the final LIV Golf Invitational Series tournament, which kicks off Friday at a course he owns about an hour west of New York.

Trump launched into a rattle of cameras to kick off the tournament’s pro-am competition, but the course was otherwise mostly silent as he raced down the first fairway, with Thursday’s event closed to the public.

Trump, an avid golfer whose poor adherence to the rules of the game has come under scrutiny, rarely plays in public. His mid-morning tour came days after media reported that the Justice Department was questioning Trump associates about his actions surrounding the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Asked by a reporter at the first tee if he intended to announce his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election, he replied: “You are going to be so happy… we will let you know very soon .

Trump, dressed in a short-sleeved white polo shirt and his red cap, and his son Eric teeed off in front of reporters and a few dozen event volunteers and staff, including the general manager of LIV Golf, Greg Norman. Trump and his son were paired with Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, two of the biggest names to make the lucrative leap from the PGA Tour, long the world’s most high-profile golf tour, to the Saudi-backed LIV Series saudi.

Who are the LIV golfers? They range from famous to anonymous.

Both professionals cheered and cheered as Trump sent his first forehand but just wide of the fairway.

After the shooting, Trump turned to a group of observers, which included his daughter Ivanka and her husband, former White House adviser Jared Kushner, and said, “Glad it’s over.”

Trump’s private club is covered in LIV signs this week, much of which proclaims the organization’s slogan, “Golf, but louder.” And to kick off its third tournament, the Saudi-backed separatist league turned to one of its loudest and most visible supporters, whose courses will host two events in LIV’s inaugural season.

The Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster hosted the 2017 US Women’s Open and was chosen by the PGA of America to host the Men’s PGA Championship in 2022. But in January 2021, days after the insurrection at the US Capitol , the PGA of America stripped Trump National of the tournament, saying such an event would be “detrimental to the PGA of America brand.”

On Thursday, Trump was asked if he regrets that his course hosts a LIV Golf event and not one sanctioned by the USGA or the PGA Tour.

“No, no regrets,” Trump said. “That’s their problem. This course blows all other courses away.

Trump was also asked how much money he made hosting the LIV tournament.

“I don’t do it for that,” he said. “They’ve been very generous, but I’m not doing it for that. I’m doing it because I think it’s great for golf.

During Thursday’s round, Trump drove his own cart, which featured a presidential seal and a red, white and blue golf bag on the back. On the opening par 4 hole, he left 15 putts short and registered a bogey. After watching the pros from the back tees on the 446-yard second hole, Trump looked down the hill toward the blue tees.

“I’ll find a more comfortable t-shirt,” he said, settling back into his cart.

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The group sometimes played the best ball, so when Trump’s drive on the third hole landed in a bunker, his caddy picked it up before Trump was even back on his cart. On the fifth hole, Trump refused to attempt putts.

The cutless, shotgun-style LIV tournament begins in earnest on Friday and will feature 48 professional players from around the world, many of whom have left the mainstream circuits lured by generous contracts backed by Saudi Arabia. But Thursday morning’s pro-am tournament, which included an assortment of celebrities, social media influencers and conservative voices, unofficially opened the event.

Caitlyn Jenner played with English golfers Paul Casey and Ian Poulter. Charles Barkley has been paired with Spaniard Sergio Garcia and South African Louis Oosthuizen, and radio host Clay Travis has performed with American Brooks Koepka.

But Trump, surely trying to draw attention to the weekend tournament on his course, was the standout name. Although he is a devoted golfer, most of his games are played away from the public or the press.

This week marks the third event in the controversial LIV Golf series, and its second in the United States. With its Saudi benefactors funding the venture and poaching golfers from the PGA and European Tours with lucrative contracts and signing bonuses, the new Tour has come under heavy criticism. This week, with three days of golf taking place at a Trump-owned course less than 50 miles from Manhattan, promises a new level of scrutiny.

Already, family members of victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks have called on Trump to cancel the event and have scheduled two press conferences this week in Bedminster in a bid to shed light on Saudi involvement in the attacks. – which involved 15 Saudi nationals – and ensure golfers are aware of what they have signed up for.

“They got their talking points. And their talking points are to defend their actions to join the LIV tournament and say the kingdom is not a bad actor,” Terry Strada, National President of 9/11 Families United – whose husband, Tom, worked at the World Trade Center. North Tower — said in an interview. “And we will challenge that. They fool themselves into thinking they can now say what they want to say about the kingdom.

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