Henrik Stenson leads the LIV event but the Donald Trump circus steals the show | LIV Golf Series

It didn’t take long for the thinly veiled political nuances surrounding LIV Golf tournament at Donald Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club to burst into the foreground on Saturday afternoon.

The few hundred spectators filling the stand behind the first tee exploded in the frenzied chants of “Four more years!” which echoed on the field as the former US president emerged in a white polo shirt and red Make America Great Again cap to watch the leading group of Henrik Stenson, Patrick Reed and Phachara Khongwatmai begin their second round after the horn sent the shotgun to start at a quarter past one.

A few meters away, Greg Norman, the CEO and face of the controversial Saudi-funded tour, lifted the roof with a sheepish smile, embracing the rowdy atmosphere even if it was deftly avoided by the official broadcast , which was streamed on YouTube to approximately 70,000 viewers. in the absence of a TV agreement. And that was before a surprise appearance by Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right Republican congresswoman and self-proclaimed Christian nationalist from Georgia.

If day one was a Diet Maga rally, it was Maga Classic. Crowds for Saturday’s second round of the 54-hole non-cut tournament were slightly larger and certainly noisier than Friday opening session, when no more than 2,000 spectators descended on the 500-acre grounds of Trump National in this central New Jersey farming town 45 miles west of New York. The previously deserted stands and grassy knolls along the fairways were dotted with fans as the central act of the $25million tournament unfolded under pristine blue skies and comfortable 88F (31C) temperatures.

Stenson, the overnight co-leader his dismissal as European Ryder Cup captain last week shot a two-under 69 to widen his field lead to nine under, three shots better than Dustin Johnson and four ahead of Patrick Reed, Carlos Ortiz and Talor Gooch.

But it was the former US president who was once again in the spotlight, even as the star-studded field of PGA Tour defectors made the simultaneous circuit around the 7,591-yard Old Course. A steady mass of several hundred supporters spent the afternoon outside the gated patio next to the 16th tee where Trump played the second half of the day’s game. Many of them wore shirts bearing familiar slogans: Let’s Go Brandon; Do I still miss you? ; Don’t blame me, I voted for Trump.

Fans watch play from a distance on the 10th green in Bedminster.
Fans watch play from a distance on the 10th green in Bedminster. Photo: Mike Stobe/LIV Golf/Getty Images

Their patience was rewarded when he finally emerged from the aquarium with delirious roars for a impromptu performance of God Bless America and was joined by Taylor Greene, the conservative brandon who coldly inclined for a spot on Trump’s 2024 ticket. The atmosphere was much calmer a few hundred yards behind the 514-yard, par-five first tee, where a plaque and a bouquet of white flowers marked the patch of freshly turned land where Ivana Trump, the former’s first wife president, was buried this week.

of trump illicit use of the presidential The seal of his Bedminster club has drawn a stern tut-tut from ethics watchdogs, but many other signs of his White House tenure on the court fall on the right side of federal law. Anyone who left their Maga hat at home could pick one up at the pro shop: unsigned for $35, autographed for $500. Ditto for copies of his illustrated memoir, Our Journey Together, which cost $75.

Critics have accused the Saudi government of using its $2 billion investment in LIV Golf to ‘sportswash’ the kingdom’s abysmal human rights record, alleged links to the 9/11 attacks, the harsh crackdown on women’s and LGBTQ+ rights and the 2018 murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

But while Washington’s talkative class has spent the week wondering if Trump is flip-flopping on a regime he once accused of playing a role in 9/11 will cost him politically, Saturday’s scenes seemed to put the matter to rest – with Golf remaining firmly in the backseat.

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