Lynch: LIV Golf and Donald Trump’s Marriage Is What Plans Are Made Of

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So much of the commentary about LIV Golf is focused on what it is not: no conventional tour, no known schedule, no 72 holes, no regular tee time format, not requiring a good game for a good reward, not televised, not well attended by fans and not deterred by mass executions. It wasn’t until the third tournament, which was held this week, that it became clear what LIV actually is. Not for the first time, the true character was revealed thanks to an embrace by Donald J. Trump’s baby carrot fingers.

LIV’s event at Trump National GC in Bedminster, NJ, was greeted with dignified outrage by families of those killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks. They pointed to a U.S. intelligence report released in 2021 that suggested Saudi ties to the atrocity went well beyond what was previously known—al-Qaeda funding, spawning 15 of the 19 hijackers—to provide government figures from the Kingdom Meeting on and help the terrorists on American soil. But when asked about the families’ protest, the former president offered this: “Unfortunately, no one got to the bottom of 9/11.”

The comment revealed how Trump is utterly bereft of credit, but it also made clear why he is a perfect fit for LIV Golf. Their shared parallels are as numerous as they are unflattering.

Begin with the art of obfuscation, practiced at every LIV press conference as executives and players alike prevail over the continued abuse by their benefactors. Their evasion of human rights issues and the breakup of a regime critic are akin to Trump exonerating the Saudis of responsibility for the murder of nearly 3,000 Americans. The demand of those employed by the Crown Prince is always to trivialize, distract, disseminate, deceive, but never denounce.

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Then there’s protecting the grit, doing whatever it takes to ensure that the hoarding of other people’s money continues unimpeded. Both LIV and Trump Inc. take MBS for a dupe. While Trump collects fees to host tournaments, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, received $2 billion for his new private equity firm from the Saudi government’s Public Investment Fund, despite objections from the Fund’s advisers about the investment’s merits. . At least Trump and Kushner earned the regime’s favor by providing air cover after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Accounting for the Fund’s huge payments to weak golfers is a more difficult question.

Leading to the inevitable fits and starts, making fun of the gullible with talk of a groundbreaking new commodity that feels more like an income game for guys whose liquidity can no longer fund their narcissism. The brands of Trump and LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman are their names, which they have added to everything from airlines to steaks. If you want to convince a new investor to subsidize your reckless self-image, the best thing you can do is present a new product. Golf is their means to that end.

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Both men are adept at using personal grievances as professional fuel.

The list of Trump’s alleged injustices is longer than Beijing’s phone book and includes the PGA Tour (before leaving his Doral Resort in 2016), the PGA of America (for taking the 2022 PGA Championship from his New Jersey track to Oklahoma after the Jan. 6 resignation from the Capitol), and the R&A (for not returning the Open to Turnberry while his name is above the door).

Norman’s well-documented grudge at the Tour dates back decades and quickly spreads to those he doesn’t welcome enough from his new Saudi-funded venture, such as the major championships and the Official World Golf Ranking. No complaint is too small to go unspoken at LIV and that has encouraged players to speak out about the harsh exploitation they have endured, such as Phil Mickelson with his media rights and Sergio Garcia with his penalties.

A common side effect of Trump and LIV’s proximity is reputational damage. Many a man has had his name tarnished by association with 45 and now golfers watch as their hard-earned prestige is diminished not by the bare money grab but rather by the unfair ambiguities that are a job requirement when working for the Saudis. Take Paul Casey, once an admired UNICEF ambassador who refused to join Saudi Arabia but who was silent this week when asked about abuse by those whose check he cashed. Next: Bubba Watson. He has adopted two children and is a passionate advocate for the cause, but will one day have to reconcile that with working for a state that has cruelly made adoption illegal.

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What LIV Golf finally showed this week is something Trump mastered long ago: the art of theater, of presenting a masquerade to the disaffected masses, of promising disruption and reform it is ill-positioned to to make it come true.

“Our success is a direct result of knowing how to market a brand and having the right people to represent the brand,” Norman once said in his standard company language. He couldn’t have found more suitable people to represent the LIV brand than the people he gathered this week. It was almost enough to feel sorry for the Crown Prince whose purse is chiseled by them all. Almost.

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42nd Ryder Cup

42nd Ryder Cup

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek

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