"A Different Order Of Magnitude"
R&A And PGA of America Sever Ties With "Gutted" Donald Trump
Phil Mickelson had just lipped-out to post 63 at Royal Troon. The lob shot master was transforming into a late-blooming links maestro and seemed primed for a second Open Championship win.
I had watched most of his back nine and sat down at the 2016 Open media center to pen a website item for GolfDigest.com. Just a few words in, the cell phone flashed “Unknown Caller” and I assumed it was a peculiar pal of Mickelson’s calling to take credit for the almost-62.
All yours, voice mail!
It was Donald Trump.
I had visited the newly reopened Turnberry 45 minutes down A77 and he left a message thanking me for a complimentary Tweet. The eventual 45th President of the United States also wanted to hear what I thought of Martin Ebert’s renovation. Because he was knee-deep in the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump could not experience the historic resort’s incredible overhaul in person.
What made the call so unusual? That same day Trump was expected to finalize the most difficult decision a presidential candidate supposedly faces: the naming of a running mate. Less than 24 hours later Trump named Mike Pence as his Vice Presidential selection.
That Saturday evening, the great David Fleming of Prestwick allowed Jaime Diaz and I to play a few holes at the wondrous place where The Open began. Because the weather was poor, I decided to leave my phone in the car. Incredibly, Trump called again wanting to talk about the many R&A-suggested changes he’d made to Turnberry.
So I’m not shocked that he struggled with Monday’s permanent disavowment by the R&A and PGA of America. Some might think a second impeachment with eight days to go in his presidency, a pandemic or other weighty matters would take priority.
Not so, according to the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman today:
Trump might have given up on Turnberry’s chances of hosting The Open, but not until Monday would the R&A officially kill its foreseeable rota status. And they did it without uttering his name.
The R&A’s brevity and clarity was in stark contrast to the PGA of America’s late Sunday Twitter announcement severing ties with Trump Bedminster. A video announcement to members landed Monday, followed by a Golf Channel segment to explain the PGA’s thinking.
Jimmy Roberts and Jaime Diaz asked all of the right questions but PGA CEO Seth Waugh and PGA President Jim Richerson were respectfully evasive, mentioning protection of the PGA “brand” as the primary reason for terminating the deal. Not the incitement of a riot that killed five and has the nation on edge.
Waugh called the events of January 6th “tragic”, but then said “our brand was at risk” in justifying what he called “as much a business decision” as it was a “a fiduciary decision.”
Richerson would not touch whether the PGA board vote was unanimous, so we got our answer on that.
Waugh, was obviously pained by the turn of events as an American citizen who also was Trump’s lender for a time, but said the events of last week “happened in real time” and the organization was just now pivoting to find a replacement. As I noted in Sunday’s Quadrilateral letter, only after January 6th did the PGA start reconsidering Trump Bedminster without a backup plan in place. Given the Grand Slam of Golf’s 2016 demise over Trump’s incendiary campaign remarks, the PGA Board may also be backing up hard drives on DVDs and taking 2022 PGA applications via fax.
The R&A has used Trump’s political standing as an excuse to avoid Turnberry since his name was put on the entrance sign. In a helpful foreshadowing of what could happen if he were the host of an Open, Trump landed his helicopter mid-2015 Women’s Open. A similar show of aeronautical bluster also annoyed the PGA Tour when Trump Doral hosted tournaments.
But the R&A’s message Monday was clean and simple: enough is enough. The PGA of America talked brands, business and fiduciary matters even as multiple corporations flee Trump and analysts are expecting more boycotts, defections and lost business.
Now his New York City concessions are in question, including Trump Ferry Point.
None of the that apparently matters to Trump as much as losing out on major championships, something he coveted all the way to the very end.
On A Lighter Note…
Several courses have reportedly volunteered to step in and The Quadrilateral will track how the PGA navigates the auction.
May the best architecture win!
But because you can bet on anything these days, the oddsmakers at BetOnline.ag are offering investment opportunities on this one-of-a-kind competition. Really.
TPC Harding Park and Oak Hill Country Club were listed at 14/1 and 20/1, respectively but the venues are currently "locked” “pending an adjustment to the lines.”
Who knew the major venue replacement market was so shady?
And Liberty National at 2-1?
The BetOnline team clearly knows something I don’t. But the prospect of Liberty hosting the 2021 Northern Trust and a PGA Championship nine months later seems about as sensible as betting on the 2022 PGA sweepstakes.
That said, Valhalla is a tasty dog at 12-1.