LIV Golf, a men’s league funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, made history as its headliner, Brooks Koepka, won the PGA Championship in style. However, LIV’s second year of tours continues to be clouded by controversies. Former President Donald J. Trump, who hosts one of the leagues, has continued to overshadow the league’s efforts. It remains to be seen whether LIV can overtake Trump’s shadow and how it will be perceived, especially in the United States, where the league is struggling.
Aside from major tournament winners, such as Koepka and Phil Mickelson, perhaps no one is more publicly associated with LIV than Trump, who has been an avid supporter of Saudi Arabia. Trump’s flamboyant presence has resulted in infomercials about his estate and press conferences about politics across his 18 halls along the Potomac River. The LIV executives have said that they were drawn to venues that were reluctant to host events comparable to the PGA Tour. However, Trump’s persistent presence in the LIV’s trajectory has led to skepticism about the league’s motives and intentions.
Trump’s love for LIV can be traced, in part, to his longstanding friction with the golf world. In 2016, the PGA Tour ended its long-standing relationship with LIV. Trump’s choice of course in Doral, Florida, near Miami, was “fundamentally a sponsorship issue.” Additionally, after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in 2021, the PGA plans to host its flagship men’s championship in 2022 at Trump’s property in New Jersey. The R&A has stated that it will not return the tournament to Trump’s Turnberry.
While LIV has attempted to move past controversies, it remains difficult for players not to question the morality of accepting millions of dollars in Saudi money. Even on days when President Trump does not attend events, his presence still looms large. LIV executives have largely ignored Trump’s role in the league, choosing instead to focus on obtaining quality venues.
However, Trump’s continued presence in LIV threatens sponsorship deals and television rights. Furthermore, it remains to be seen whether fans will be alienated or drawn in by his presence. As long as Trump continues to be associated with LIV, the league will remain in political thickets, regardless of how well players perform on the biggest stage.