Henrik Stenson leads the LIV event but Donald Trump’s circus steals the spotlight | golf

It didn’t take long for the veiled political tunes around the LIV Golf Championship at Donald Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club to take center stage on Saturday afternoon.

Hundreds of spectators fill the grandstand behind the first tee arouse In the reckless chants of “Four more years!” Her voice echoed across the stadiums as the former US president appeared in a white polo shirt and red “Make America Great Again” hat to watch the leading group of Henrik Stenson, Patrick Reed and Vachara Khongwatmai begin their second rounds after the trumpet first blasted the ball at 1:15.

Several feet away, Greg Norman, the CEO and face of the controversial Saudi-funded breakaway tour, raised the ceiling with a shy smile, embracing the sparkling atmosphere even as it was cleverly avoided by the official broadcast, which was streamed on YouTube to some 70,000 viewers. In the absence of a TV deal. And that was before the sudden appearance of Marjorie Taylor Green, a far-right Republican congressman and Christian nationalist from Georgia.

If day one was a Diet Maga run, this was a Maga Classic. The crowds in Saturday’s second round of the 54-hole championship no-cutter were a bit larger and decidedly louder than Friday’s opening session, when no more than 2,000 spectators were on Trump’s 500-acre national grounds in this farming town of central New Jersey. 45 miles west of New York City. The formerly deserted stands and grassy fairways along the fairways were packed with fans as the $25 million tournament was held under pristine blue skies and comfortable temperatures of 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius).

Stenson, the overnight co-captain after being sacked as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain last week, fired two sub-69 goals to extend his lead on the field to a sub-nine nine, three strikes better than Dustin Johnson and four strikes on Patrick Reed. Carlos Ortiz and Taylor Gotsch.

But it was the former US president who once again shone the spotlight, even as the star-studded field of PGA Tour defectors synchronized the course around 7,591 yards. A continuous mass of several hundred fans spent the afternoon stationed outside the enclosed terrace next to tee number 16 as Trump played in the second half of the day’s play. Many of them wore T-shirts with familiar slogans: Let’s Go Brandon; Missed me yet? Don’t blame me, I voted for Trump.

Fans are seen playing on the 10th green lawn from a distance in Bedminster. Photo: Mike Staub/Live Golf/Getty Images

Their patience was rewarded when he finally came out of the aquarium to a babbling roar for improvised performance God bless America and he’s joined by Taylor Green, the conservative hooligans cold angle for a spot on the Trump 2024 ticket. It was quieter a few hundred yards behind the 514-yard first tee, which is five times as big, where a plaque and bouquet of white flowers marked the freshly turned plot where Ivana Trump is buried, The first wife of the former president, this. week.

Trump’s illegal use of the presidential seal at his club Bedminster has drawn stern criticism from ethics watchdogs, but many other landmarks of his tenure in the White House on cause lie on the right side of federal law. Anyone can leave a Maga at home choose one At the Pro Store: Unsigned for $35, signed for $500. Same for copies of his photo memoir, Our Journey Together, which comes in at $75.

Critics have accused the Saudi government of using its reported $2 billion investment in LIV Golf to “sport-wash” the kingdom’s abhorrent human rights record, the alleged connection to the 9/11 attacks, the severe suppression of women’s rights and LGBTQI rights and the 2018 murder of a dissident journalist. Khashoggi.

But as the Washington gossip class spent the week pondering whether Trump’s shift toward a regime he once accused of a role in 9/11 would cost him politically, Saturday’s spectator seemed to be asking the question — with golf firmly in place. in the back seat.

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