As with Twitter – finally seeking to distance itself from Donald Trump just as his value to them is about to plummet – America’s golf greats’ martyred sighs feel a tad opportunistic and empty now.
Because the brand is the issue here, not the principle.
The PGA all but admits as much in its statement about a decision – days before he leaves the White House – to pull their 2022 championship out of Trump’s Bedminster course in New Jersey.
USPGA president, Jim Richerson, makes no reference to the five lives lost in a riot incited by the US President last week when explaining that decision, referring opaquely instead to how keeping their marquee event at the Trump venue would be "detrimental to the PGA of America brand." In other words, it’s not about any horror at the blood on Trump’s hands today, it’s about worries of sponsors getting squeamish.
The decision comes only because Trump, as an ex-president, won’t spread quite the same, forbidding shadow. Writing in Golfweek, Eamon Lynch reveals that moving the 2022 tournament from Bedminster has been "debated internally" for more than two years, but the PGA was "reluctant to antagonise a famously vindictive man who controls the Internal Revenue Service".
They did pull the WGC Cadillac Championship out of Trump National Doral, near Miami, in 2016, with sponsors having expressed alarm at his depiction of Mexican immigrants as "criminals, drug dealers and rapists" during the presidential election.
But then the broad consensus at the time was that Trump had little chance of beating Hillary Clinton to the White House. His vindictiveness didn’t frighten them.
Trump’s sometimes breathtaking toxicity since wasn’t enough to cost him the highly public support of golf icons like Jack Nicklaus and Nancy Lopez during the recent election battle with Joe Biden. Nor, incredibly, did it deny him the craven presence of Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam to accept 'Presidential Medals of Freedom' last week, less than 24 hours after the world had witnessed that murderous chaos unspool just a dozen blocks away.
So while his own political colleagues were looking at ways to remove a clearly irrational unpredictable man from office, two of golf’s biggest names pitched up in Washington to shake his hand (even with 365,000 Americans dead from Covid, elbow-bumping has never looked Trump’s thing).
Player is one of eight golf icons with a Trump Doral villa in his name, as is Nicklaus. These vast, plush villas carry a large portrait of the ‘honoured’ golfer in every bedroom. Others recognised in this way at Doral are Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.
Golf has always been Trump’s game, you see. Always the game of Republican Presidents, in fact.
Both George HW and George W Bush were even guests in the US team room during the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline, Massachussets. Famously, the latter – then governor of Texas and a personal friend of US captain Ben Crenshaw – read out the letter William Barret Travis wrote to the people of Texas during The Battle of Alamo.
Crenshaw’s team trailed by four points with only the Sunday singles matches to play, a deficit no team had overcome in Ryder Cup history. Some players were, reputedly, in tears as Bush recited the words "I shall never surrender or retreat … Victory or Death."
The Alamo was lost of course, but – that Sunday – America won the Cup.
Before the ’93 Ryder Cup at The Belfry, many of the US team were openly unenthusiastic about accepting Bill Clinton’s invite to the White House. All 12 being Republicans, it took the insistence of their captain, Tom Watson, to avert an embarrassing snub of Clinton, a Democrat President.
Trump’s passion for golf has informed his acquisition of some of the finest courses around, not least Turnberry in Scotland and Doonbeg in West Clare.
It’s also lent him PR-spinning access to some of the biggest names in the sport as Rory McIlroy discovered to his cost in 2017. McIlroy admits today that he was respecting the office rather than the individual when accepting Trump’s invitation to a round in Florida and insists that – with the benefit of hindsight – he wouldn’t do so again.
To be fair, some of the piety encountered by McIlroy over that single golf game seemed disproportionate, coming as it did within a sport with Saudi Arabia among its European Tour destinations.
Awash with money, professional golf is a country club game in which country-club rules apply. In other words, money opens the heaviest doors.
For four years, Donald Trump’s worst excesses as US President couldn’t over-ride that truth. Actually not even the horrors of Capitol Hill a week ago could do that. All that’s changed between golf and Trump today is circumstance.
It isn’t principle that’s taken the 2022 USPGA out of Bedminster. It’s the fact removal trucks are headed for Pennsylvania Avenue.
The record book shows he's played 94 PGA Tour events and amassed $2.58 million in prize money. But, as he nurses himself back to full fitness after elbow surgery and anxiously awaits the result of a Covid-19 test and news of a potential start in The American Express in La Quinta next week, Séamus Power has no desire to utter a word of complaint.