DORAL, Fla. — Donald Trump was late.
The former president had the 9 a.m. tee time at the LIV Golf pro-am at his Doral course on Thursday, but didn’t show up until two minutes after the hour. No big deal, though. This is one of the benefits of owning the place.
About 20 fans were gathered near the tee when Trump arrived in a Trump-branded golf cart. Strapped to the back was a nondescript golf bag with “Trump 2024” stitched to the side. The president’s name was also stitched onto the logo on his chest and on the back of his red MAGA hat. He greeted his first teammate of the day, Brooks Koepka, like an old pal. (Sergio Garcia played the back nine with Trump.) They’ve played together before; Brooks knows the deal. One of Trump’s sons, Eric, and Trump’s 15-year-old granddaughter, Kai, filled out the foursome in the fray.
The course is called Trump National Doral and is one of 16 Trump golf properties. It’s the best course in the world for tournament golf, Trump says, behind only his courses in Scotland and Washington DC Trump never lacks swagger, but Doral is unquestionably a good test for professional golfers. The PGA Tour visited here for 45 years before stepping away from the Trump brand during its 2016 campaign.
There is at least one thing you to have to likes Trump’s game – and that’s more than excused his late arrival – and it’s the speed at which he plays. It would be difficult to play much faster. Trump pulled up his pants to bend over and plant a tee in the ground, and before you could pull out your phone to take a shot, his ball was in the air.
“It’s somewhere in our genetics,” Eric told me. The trumps play fast.
“I like it, I can promise you that. I’m not a big fan of slow play,” Koepka said after the round.
As Trump’s first shot reached its climax, he was already picking up his tee. He almost never watches the ball reach its destination. If he’s not sure where it ended, he’ll ask his caddy. But he was sure of that first tee shot.
“You think Biden can do this?” Trump asked the group of spectators. “I do not think so.”
Bluster again, yes, but he’s surely right. President Biden can’t do that.
The pro-am environment is a comfortable setting for Trump, who has long been accused of having a flippant relationship with the rules. He hit at least one ball into a water hazard on the front nine – he was dealing with a bit of a miss on the right – but no need to take a drop from there. He just played where his granddaughter’s ball was. Kai, it should be noted, has the best swing in the family and it’s not close.
Like Trump or not, he’s still the most famous golfer on the planet, even if his 2.5 handicap is no more than an index of vanity. (He’s released just one score since he was sworn in more than five years ago.) Trump’s decision, in photo or video form, has been seen by, what, billions of people ? His swing is flatter than most, and he brings it back about three-quarters of the way. Eric’s movement is similar. They both hit low. The elder Trump handled the pace of the Greens well throughout his front nine, but did nothing. His support staff reminded him that “a lot of good putts don’t get in.”
At LIV’s event during Trump in New Jersey earlier this year, the president’s presence was well documented. He hung out over the weekend, talked to the pros, took pictures with the fans, watched with Tucker Carlson and Marjorie Taylor Green and finally got more attention than was on the course.
Thursday at Doral was not that, as no fans were allowed on site, just pro-am family and friends, resort guests and a dozen secret servicemen in polo shirts. (The weekend in Doral won’t be that either, because Trump isn’t staying.) The few onlookers who sabotaged it through Bermuda’s dewy grass in what felt like 90-degree heat — well, we can imagine which way they leaned politically. One had a photo of Trump embedded in the back of its phone case. Another was an event staffer who interrupted his maintenance cart to yell at Trump on the 5th tee:
“Trump, you have my vote in 2024! You have my vote in 2024! If I don’t see you there, it’s gonna be a problem.
One of the roughly 50 people who FaceTimed streamed the action to her family, streaming Trump’s every move on play-by-play. Another big Trump fan arrived when the group reached the 8th fairway: Majed Al Sorour, the general manager of LIV Golf, the head of the Saudi Golf Federation and also manager of Newcastle United Football Club. Al Sorour is a busy man, but during LIV events he takes time to press the flesh.
“Mah-zheed! Trump said as they shook hands and hugged.
Trump’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is politically significant and complicated, and it also has implications for the world of golf. LIV Golf is backed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund. The boss of Al Sorour is the manager of this fund. Trump opened several courses for LIV’s use. A Saudi fund has invested $2 billion in the private equity firm of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. “They are good people with unlimited money,” Trump said Thursday.
Trump, who made headlines after the Jan. 6 committee subpoenaed him to testify, heard various questions from Doral reporters, including whether he could run for office again or campaign with him. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
I was more interested in what Trump thinks of his game. Could I extract some humility from the former president? He is a solid player but not without weaknesses. All golfers have them. Trump had just made the par on the 7th hole when he stopped to sign hats which are popular with a sizable portion of the voting public.
“It’s 460 yards,” he told his fans from the hole he had just completed. “You think Biden can do that? I do not think so. I don’t think he can hit it from 30 yards.
I jumped up to ask, “What’s the best part of your game?”
“His everything fine,” Trump said, his head bowed as he signed.
About a minute later, I tried again.
“What are your strengths and weaknesses on the golf course?”
“I hit it straight on target. I hit good readers. I hit good irons. I putt well. I think I have a very good game.
Half an hour later, Trump reached the 10th tee, where Garcia was waiting to take over from Koepka. With a new crowd gathering, Trump hit another solid tee shot and delivered the same quip from Biden.
Anyone who had been there on the 1st tee could have rolled their eyes. Or maybe they loved it.
Feel free to share your thoughts with the author on [email protected].
Subscribe to the magazine