Trump says Saudi-funded LIV Golf creates 'gold rush' for players

AP photo by Seth Wenig / Former U.S. President Donald Trump plays during the pro-am round of the Bedminster Invitational LIV Golf tournament Thursday in Bedminster, NJ.

BEDMINSTER, N.J. - Former U.S. President Donald Trump played another round at his home course Thursday, this one different from so many others.

He was part of the Saudi-funded LIV Golf Invitational pro-am, put on by a breakaway tour he said is creating a "gold rush" for players.

The third LIV Golf event, which starts Friday at Trump National Bedminster, added four new players to the 48-man field that illustrated how the disruption goes beyond the PGA Tour.

Henrik Stenson of Sweden is among the newcomers, which led the Europe-based DP World Tour to strip him of his Ryder Cup captaincy for the 2023 matches in Italy. Stenson was made aware during his news conference of a report in The Daily Telegraph, later matched by Golf Digest, that Luke Donald would be Europe's captain.

"I don't feel like I've given it up," Stenson said. "I made every arrangement possible here to be able to fulfill my captain's duties, and I've had great help here from LIV to be able to do that. And still, the decision was made that I was to be removed. I'm obviously disappointed over the situation. But it is what it is, and yeah, we move on from there now."

By adding Stenson - the other three were Paul Casey of England and American players Charles Howell III and Jason Kokrak - LIV Golf now has 12 former major champions on its roster, though only five among the top 50 in the current Official World Golf Ranking.

"You have really the best players in the world, many of the best players, and soon you'll probably have all of them," said Trump, who played in the pro-am with Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson, along with his son Eric.

"Remember this, if there's a merger (between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour), the people who didn't come will never get anything except a thank-you from the people who took advantage of them."

There is no conversation at the PGA Tour about a possible merger. Commissioner Jay Monahan said last month that while the tour welcomes healthy competition, the "LIV Saudi golf league is not that. It's an irrational threat, one not concerned with the return on investment or true growth of the game."

Trump felt slighted when a World Golf Championship event left his Trump National Doral course near Miami after 2016 when a replacement title sponsor could not be found.

Backed by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, LIV Golf has been awarding massive money - various reports put total signing fees at around $1 billion so far. The PGA Tour has suspended players who join for violating regulations that require a release to play in foreign events. It does not grant releases for tournaments held in North America.

The prize money at LIV Golf tournaments totals $25 million, with the winner getting $4 million. Last place in the 54-hole events with no cut is guaranteed $120,000.

"What they are doing for golf is so great, what they are doing for players is so great," Trump said. "Their salaries are going to go way up. The PGA was not loved by a lot of the players, as you know, for a long time. Now they have an alternative, and nobody would have ever known there was going to be a gold rush like this."

LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman has said the series would support any player who chose to challenge his suspension from another tour in court. That hasn't happened on the PGA Tour yet, though Branden Grace and Ian Poulter were among four players allowed to play in the Scottish Open when a British judge issued a stay against DP World Tour suspension.

Poulter and Lee Westwood said they still have no clarity from the European circuit on future tournaments or their eligibility for the Ryder Cup. Europe's points system typically begins in September.

"I'm still eligible to play on the European tour. I don't think I've been banned from playing any events," Westwood said, adding the BMW PGA Championship is still on his schedule. "I've had no correspondence on that. That's an event, a qualifying event, for the European Ryder Cup team."

The European tour's flagship event is Sept. 8-11 south of London, held a week after a LIV Golf event outside Boston and a week before an LIV event in the Chicago suburbs.