Former US President Donald Trump will play a round with Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson ahead of the LIV Golf event which begins on Friday.
The third event of the controversial Saudi-backed tour is being played at Bedminster, New Jersey, which is a Trump-owned course.
A source with LIV Golf told Reuters that Trump and his son Eric will tee up with 2020 US Open winner DeChambeau and two-time major winner Johnson during the Pro-Am on Thursday ahead of its first round which starts the next day.
The LIV Golf tour has been criticized widely for offering vast swathes of money from Saudi Arabia, a country with a dismal human rights record, for players to leave the traditional golf tours.
Earlier this month, Trump told golfers that they should join the LIV Golf series and “take the money now.”
“All of those golfers that remain ‘loyal’ to the very disloyal PGA, in all of its different forms, will pay a big price when the inevitable MERGER with LIV comes, and you get nothing but a big ‘thank you’ from PGA officials who are making Millions of Dollars a year,” Trump wrote on Truth Social Monday.
“If you don’t take the money now, you will get nothing after the merger takes place, and only say how smart the original signees were.”
His comments come as a 9/11 survivors’ group has said it is “appalled” by the “offensive, disrespectful and hurtful” LIV Golf tour ahead of the New Jersey event being staged about 50 miles (80km) from the site of the deadly terror attack.
Speaking on Tuesday at a press conference near the Bedminster course, Terry Strada, chair of 9/11 Families United – a coalition of families and survivors of the 2001 terror attacks – said that playing such a tournament so close to the venue of the worst terrorist attack in American history is wrong.
Players have also been criticized for abandoning the established PGA Tour and DP World Tour in search of eye-watering money payoffs.
The allegations of Saudi government complicity with the attacks on September 11, 2001, have long been the subject of dispute in Washington. Fifteen of the 19 al Qaeda terrorists who hijacked four planes were Saudi nationals, but the Saudi government has denied any involvement in the attacks.
The 9/11 Commission established by Congress said in 2004 that it had found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” al Qaeda.
Still, the victims’ families have pushed for further disclosures, and last year, the FBI released a document that details the FBI’s work to investigate the alleged logistical support that a Saudi consular official and a suspected Saudi intelligence agent in Los Angeles provided to at least two hijackers.
In response to the criticism, LIV Golf told CNN in a statement: “As we have said all along, these families have our deepest sympathy. While some may not agree, we believe golf is a force for good around the world.”
The 9/11 issue is just one of a number of criticisms of the LIV Golf series.
Fronted by former world No. 1 Greg Norman, the team-based LIV series is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) – a sovereign wealth fund chaired by Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia – and has pledged to award $250 million in total prize money.
Tournaments are held over 54 holes, rather than the PGA Tour’s 72 holes, and there are no players cut during tournament play.
The huge sums of money up for grabs, and less demanding requirements, spurred a number of golfers – many in the twilight of their careers – to break away from the PGA Tour and join LIV, including six-time major winner Phil Mickelson, four-time major champion Brooks Koepka and former world No. 1 Johnson.