Much remains uncertain around the upcoming Saudi Arabian golf league, particularly which golfers will participate, but what is definitely known is that it will be backed by an extraordinarily controversial government with rampant human rights violations.
Still, the idea of well-funded operation intending to rival the PGA Tour has drawn interest from people around golf, and now former President Donald Trump's company is reportedly getting involved.
The Trump Organization is in talks with LIV Golf Investments, the Saudi-backed organization putting the league together, to host events at courses owned by the former president, according to The Washington Post.
Among the courses reportedly discussed as sites for the nascent tour are Trump's courses in Bedminster, New Jersey, and Doral, Florida. Trump's Turnberry course has also hosted four British Opens, which could make it attractive for a rival tour.
Why would Trump host a Saudi-backed golf tour?
It's not hard to see why Trump would be interested in getting involved with a Saudi Arabian golf league, despite the country's past and ongoing human rights violations.
When he was president, Trump was a frequent defender of Saudi Arabia at home and on the world stage, even after the Saudis' murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi. He vetoed a number of congressional attempts to censure the country, had his administration block defense spending bills proposals that could have created oversight for arm sales to the Saudis and helped block a U.N. Security Council Resolution demanding accountability for war crimes in Yemen.
Now out of office, it's hard to imagine Trump's opinion of the country has changed at all.
It's also hard to imagine Trump's opinion of the PGA has changed. Trump was bitter when the PGA Tour moved its WGC Championship from his Doral course to Mexico City in 2016, then the PGA moved the 2022 PGA Championship from his Bedminster course to Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Then there's the financial aspect of the potential move. It's no secret that Saudi Arabia has decided to use sports as a way of improving its international standing, pushing to host pretty much every event it can get its hands on. That includes UFC events, boxing matches, WWE events, horse races, Formula 1 races and, of course golf.
The Saudis have dropped incredible amounts of money while doing this, and it figures to continue as their golf tour gets off the ground. Meanwhile, Trump's courses have been widely reported to be hemorrhaging money since he became president.
With all those reasons, a Saudi event on a Trump course almost felt inevitable.
Much remains unknown with Saudi organization
We still don't know who exactly will be playing in the Saudi golf tour or where those events will be, but the picture has been slowly coming into focus.
Hall of Famer Greg Norman has already been selected as the tour's commissioner, and there have been whispers of several PGA Tour golfers preparing to jump ship, despite the PGA Tour's warnings of a lifetime ban.
The highly controversial Saudi International may prove to be a good indicator of which players are interested. Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Matthew Wolff, Bubba Watson and Sergio Garcia all participated in the event despite the ire of the PGA.
Mickelson's rationalizations may have been the most informative comments on why a player would consider joining the Saudis, which he called "scary motherf***ers in his recent book. In the end, it was about the money, no matter who is signing the checks:
“They killed [Washington Post reporter Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights,” Mickelson said in the book, according to an excerpt Shipuck posted on the Fire Pit Collective on Thursday. “They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it?
“Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”