JERSEY CITY, New Jersey (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump is likely to visit this week’s Presidents Cup, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said on Wednesday.
The past three American presidents - Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton - have confirmed they will be present for the start of the event at Liberty National on Thursday.
Trump, if he does visit, is more likely to leave it until Sunday.
“His people have been out and taken a good, hard look at the property and worked closely with our team,” Monahan said.
“We are thinking that he is going to come out but he has not yet confirmed, and we don’t know timing or all the underlying details.
“There’s a remarkably cool aspect to it, to have three former presidents standing on the first tee tomorrow to kick off the Presidents Cup.
“It’s something we’re really excited about, to have the sitting president come back, a person who is an honorary chair for the Presidents Cup, potentially, on Sunday.”
If Trump attends, he will be first sitting U.S. president to do so since Clinton at the 2000 event outside Washington.
The Presidents Cup is a biennial competition between the U.S. and an International team comprised of players from the rest of the world, except for Europe.
It is standard procedure for the Presidents Cup to invite the occupant of the White House.
“We were really excited to know that he had accepted that role and was contemplating coming out here,” Monahan said.
“We hope he comes and he’ll be welcomed by us and by our players.”
A visit by Trump would come hot on the heels of the president’s feud with NFL players over the role of player protests during the national anthem.
In a gesture initiated last season by then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, several NFL players have routinely “taken one knee” during the playing of the anthem. It is intended to call attention to what the protesting players see as a pattern of racism in the treatment of African-Americans by U.S. police.
The issue has been magnified since Trump last Friday said any NFL player who protested during the anthem was a “son of a bitch” who should be fired.
Trump on Tuesday called for the NFL to ban any player who knelt during the anthem.
There are not expected to be any political statements this week by golfers on the 12-man U.S. and International teams, but Monahan said he was not issuing any orders.
“We all have that bedrock foundational right to freedom of speech, and our players exercise that fairly consistently, day in and day out, week in and week out,” he said.
Monahan acknowledged that Trump’s visit might be a distraction from the competition.
“We have the potential for distractions in a lot of different flavours every single week. It’s something you’re always concerned with,” he said.
Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Ed Osmond