According to a new report from the New York Times, President Trump asked New York Jets co-owner Woody Johnson — now the American ambassador to the United Kingdom — to help steer the British Open to one of the president’s resort properties. And although Johnson did reach out to a dignitary, nothing came from the interaction.
Johnson, a co-founder of the Johnson & Johnson empire, told “multiple colleagues in February 2018” that Trump asked him to see if the British government could help direct the tournament to the Trump Turnberry resort, according to the article published on Tuesday.
The story insisted that Lewis Lukens, a deputy to Johnson, advised against any interference, saying the move would violate ethics policies. Yet Johnson did so anyway, asking the secretary of state for Scotland, David Mundell, if he could help.
Host sites for the tournament are decided by the R&A, and have already been locked in through 2024. Royal St George’s Golf Club will host in 2021, followed by the Old Course at St Andrews in 2022, Royal Liverpool Golf Club in 2023 and Royal Troon Golf Club in 2024. These dates were all pushed back after the 2020 Open Championship was canceled due to the coronavirus.
Turnberry had previously hosted four Open Championships, seven Senior Open Championships, a Women’s British Open and a Walker Cup before the Trump Organization acquired Turnberry in April 2014 for a reported $63 million from Dubai-based Leisurecorp. At the time, Trump, pre-presidential run, said, “Our aim is to make it the finest golf hotel in the world.”
Turnberry closed in March due to the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic but the golf course reopened July 3.
In April, the Trump Organization applied for bailout money from Ireland and Scotland to help cover salaries for employees at its three golf resorts in Europe because of the coronavirus lockdown, according to a report by Bloomberg.
According to the report by the Times, Mundell said it was inappropriate to go into detail about his discussions with Johnson, but Lukens was apparently so concerned about the issue that he emailed officials at the State Department to tell them.
Lukens was relieved of his duties a few months later.
Turnberry was listed as a possible site when discussions arose in 2018, but then-R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers seemed to suggest the four-time Open Championship course was never a viable option as an upcoming venue with Trump sitting in the White House.
“We have criteria for which courses we want to go to, and part of that is macroeconomics,” Slumber said. “Clearly part of that macroeconomics is about politics.”