Donald Trump talks golf's return, envisions fans 'standing on top of each other' without masks

The trickling return of live sports continued on Sunday at a Florida golf course as four PGA Tour pros hit the links for a Skins match.

As he did during last week’s UFC 249 broadcast, President Trump made an appearance on Sunday’s broadcast to discuss his agenda to reopen the United States amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this time in a phone interview with NBC’s Mike Tirico.

[ Coronavirus: How the sports world is responding to the pandemic ]

Trump wants golf ‘back to normal’

He talked golf, his relationship with PGA Tour pros and the return of sports, golf in particular. He expects things to look like they used to sooner than later.

“We really want to see it get back to normal,” Trump told Tirico. “So when you have all of those thousands, tens of thousands of people going to majors and going to golf tournaments, we want them to have that same experience. We don’t want them having to wear masks and be doing what we’ve been doing for the last number of months. That’s not getting back to normal. 

“We want to be back to normal where you have the big crowds and they’re practically standing on top of each other and they’re enjoying themselves. Not where they’re worried. But in the meantime, they do the social distancing.”

PGA’s plan to return

While Sunday’s outing was a charity event featuring Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff, the PGA Tour is scheduled to play its first event since the coronavirus shutdown with the Charles Schwab Challenge at Fort Worth, Texas, on June 11.

For now, the PGA will return without fans in attendance as the COVID-19 pandemic maintains its foothold.

Trump’s vision for sports

Trump doesn’t just envision crowds at golf courses. He alluded to green-lighting the way for fans to return to college football stands as well.

“We want to get sports back, Trump told Tirico. “We miss sports. We need sports in terms of the psyche of our country. We want big big stadiums loaded with people. We don’t want to have 15,000 people watching Alabama-LSU, as an example.”

The push for sports arrives as nation continues to grapple with how to safely reopen as the COVID-19 shutdown takes a heavy toll on the economy and the collective psyche of a nation experiencing cabin fever while sheltering in place. States are taking different approaches on how and when to do so safely as a vaccine isn’t expected before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the virus continues to spread with the United States claiming 1.4 million of the world’s 4.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 89,000 deaths as of Sunday as medical experts urge caution against reopening too soon at the risk of giving new life to the outbreak.

Donald Trump continued to trumpet the return of sports during Sunday's charity golf match. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images/file)
Donald Trump continued to trumpet the return of sports during Sunday's charity golf match. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images/file)

Trump and Rory McIlroy

McIlroy criticized Trump’s political strategy around COVID-19 last week while expressing doubt that he’d ever play golf with the president again.

“We’re in the midst of something that’s pretty serious right now and the fact that he’s trying to politicize it and make it a campaign rally, saying that (the U.S.) administers the most tests in the world like it’s a contest,” McIlroy told the McKellar Golf Podcast. ...

“It’s just not the way a leader should act, and there is a bit of diplomacy that you need to show — and I just don’t think he’s shown that, especially in these times.”

Trump didn’t address McIlroy’s comments directly on Sunday, opting to celebrate his and his fellow golfers’ return to the course.

“It’s really so good to see these great players playing,” Trump said. “I know them. They’re really terrific people.”

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