The days leading up to a major golf tournament are usually dominated by winner predictions and dark horse picks, but there’s a different question in the air at this year’s U.S. Women’s Open: will he or won’t he?
The tournament, set to begin on Thursday, is being held at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey for the first time in its history. Because of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and sometimes disparaging comments about women, there have been numerous calls for the United States Golf Association to move the tournament to a different location, but the organisation refused — perhaps because of the threat of a lawsuit.
Now, with the event’s opening tee time fast approaching, there remains a strong possibility that Trump will show up for at least part of the tournament.
On Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration posted a notice to its pilots that there will be a VIP Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) in the Bedminster area throughout tournament week.
According to the FAA’s website, a TFR “defines an area restricted to air travel due to a hazardous condition, a special event, or a general warning for the entire FAA airspace.” The Bedminster TFR is set to be lifted on Monday, the day after the tournament concludes.
But if the USGA knows anything of Trump’s travel plans, it has remained tight-lipped. Janeen Driscoll, the organisation’s public relations director, says she has “no knowledge of the president’s schedule,” according to Kristina Webb of the Palm Beach Post.
“We have a security plan in place, as we do for all of our championships,” Driscoll continued. “Our focus remains on conducting the ultimate test of golf for the best female players in the world.”
Trump has also kept quiet about his plans for the week. He’s scheduled to attend a Bastille Day celebration in France on Friday, but it’s unlikely that he would want to miss a major championship at a venue that bears his name. He purchased the property in 2002, opened the course in 2004 and hosted his daughter Ivanka’s wedding there in 2009.
The course has been ranked as one of the top 100 in America by publications like Golf Digest and Golf Magazine.
One of the course’s newest features is an air-conditioned, glass-enclosed viewing stand near the clubhouse. In the event that Trump does show up, the spot will serve as a kind of headquarters for him and his guests, according to Steve Politi of NJ.com.
Most of the players in the field have been reluctant to give their opinion on Trump’s potential visit. Some, though, have expressed concern, worrying that his presence will distract from the golf.
“Hopefully, maybe he doesn’t show up and it won’t be a big debacle and it will be about us and not him,” said Brittany Lincicome, a two-time major champion, at last week’s Women’s PGA Championship.
She added that players who are personally opposed to Trump lack the option of skipping the event, as the U.S. Women’s Open is one of the most lucrative events of the season.
“It would be so impossible, even if we wanted to boycott it,” she said. “I mean, the purse is so big, I don’t think anybody would…We don’t get to play for that much money that often.”