To say that most players on the PGA Tour, and the organization as a whole, only lean to the right when it comes to politics would be like saying the green on the 12th hole at Augusta National has just a slight break toward Rae’s Creek—a “yuge” understatement.
Walking through the tour's headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach you’d be hard-pressed to find a TV not tuned to Fox News. Golf and golfers, particularly at the highest levels of the game, has long carried a, ahem, conservative viewpoint.
Yet when it comes to Donald Trump, who was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States on Friday, even the ultimate one-percenters inside the ropes, like much of America, proved divided.
Some players didn’t bother voting because they didn’t like either candidate. Jack Nicklaus, meanwhile, was in Washington, D.C. for Trump’s inauguration ceremony.
“The hard part for everybody is we don’t know; it’s an unknown because he has not been in politics,” said Bubba Watson. “It’s scary because we just don’t know. It’s like if I became mayor.”
Now there’s a truly scary thought.
“We’ve all got dark clouds,” Watson continued. “But as my friend I think he’s a good man.”
Trump has long had a connection to golf, building and restoring golf courses, as well as playing. Even so, opinion among players is, much like the rest of the country, either for him or against, with not much in between.
“It’s a touchy subject for half the country,” said one major champion and highly ranked player who is from elsewhere in the world but calls the U.S. home. “Whether we like it or not you had to choose Hilary or Trump. I would’ve thought Mitt Romney would’ve been fantastic, but he ran into a freight train in Obama [in 2012].”
Added another foreign-born major winner who lives in Florida and plays both the PGA and European Tours: “Politics in the U.S. has been a bit more than where I’m from, about putting garbage on the opponent rather than what you’re trying to achieve at times. This year’s debates didn’t go in any other direction. It was more about badmouthing the opposition.”
One player from the Deep South said he didn’t like Trump, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, so he skipped the polls altogether on Election Day.
“I thought what he was trying to do [in golf] was good, but I understand the situation the tour and other organizations got into trying to distance themselves from him,” the player said, referring to the tour leaving Trump National Doral, where it had an event for more than half a century, for, ironically enough, Mexico.
Though the tour said it left because of its inability to find a sponsor, the association the course had with Trump admittedly made that task more difficult. The PGA and LPGA Tour, along with the USGA and PGA of America also issued a joint statement after Trump had made disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants in 2015. “But I hope he does a great job.”
If there was one prevailing thought among players, no matter their political persuasion, it’s the latter.
“The biggest thing for me is I want America to be successful,” said one player from Australia who resides in the U.S. “It doesn’t matter if you’re Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, as an individual I want people to be successful because we are all connected.”
“Any President who gets elected, everybody needs to get behind him 100 percent,” said Brandt Snedeker. “Donald is a very likeable guy, and he’ll charm your pants off. I’m sure the weight of the office will change his personality a little bit, and he’ll realize the weight of every decision has huge implications. But the reason he probably got elected is because of the way he talks and the way he acts, so I don’t think he’ll change too much.”