For 24 hours or so, it appeared as though President Donald Trump had supposedly shot one of the best golf rounds of his life. Turns out, it was not to be.
On Friday morning, a man named Leif Skodnick spotted that Trump had filed with the United States Golf Association that he had shot a round of 68 sometime in April of this year. (The USGA keeps the official handicaps of players around the country; handicaps are how many shots you, typically, shoot over par on a golf course.) But later that day, four more scores – all in the 100s – were added to Trump’s record.
“We have become aware of reports in the media questioning recent scores posted on President Trump’s [Golf Handicap and Information Network] account,” USGA spokeswoman Janeen Driscoll said in a statement. “As we dug into the data it appears someone has erroneously posted a number of scores on behalf of the GHIN user. We are taking corrective action to remove the scores and partnering with our allied golf associations and their member clubs to determine the origin of the issue.”
The USGA removed the four scores in the 100s and the 68 – although the organization did not make clear whether the 68 was part of the hack.
Had that 68 stood, it would have been Trump’s best round ever – or certainly within the last eight years. (Golf.com says Trump has never reported a score in the 60s before.)
The question everyone, of course, immediately asked when the 68 was posted – did Trump really shoot a 68 at age 72???? – is very hard to answer although it seemed unlikely from the start given the fact that Trump is a very good but not great golfer. (A 68 would be, at minimum, several shots under par – something very few non-professionals can do.)
There are lots of firsthand accounts of golf pros testifying to Trump’s skill at golf. Wrote Jaime Diaz, the former editor-in-chief of Golf World and senior writer at Golf Digest, of playing rounds with Trump in 2013 and 2014:
“Both our rounds came during openings of redesigns to his courses and were played casually, with plenty of putts inside five feet over-generously slapped away. But I certainly didn’t get the feeling that Trump shoots in the 70s only because he doesn’t putt the short ones. His ball-striking, from medium-length tees, made him a legitimate 4-handicap at the time.”
Trump’s quotes to Diaz about his self-taught golf swing are epic. “I think of golf as a very natural game,” Trump told Diaz. “I never really wanted to know a lot about my technique. I really trust instinct a lot, in golf and a lot of things.”
But then there is this counter-factual: Longtime sportswriter Rick Reilly has recently written an entire book about Trump’s golf-course cheating, titled: “Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump.”
Of Trump’s golfing, Reilly recently told CNN: “He cheats like a mafia accountant. He cheats crazy. He cheats whether you’re watching or not. He cheats whether you like it or not.” Reilly also told CNN that Trump hit two balls in the water when he played with Tiger Woods and then claimed to have almost beaten the pro.
To Reilly, Trump’s approach to golf is a window into his broader approach to life: He breaks all the rules and then denies, denies, denies. Whether or not you put that much stock in what golf can reveal about Trump, it’s clear that the President loves the sport and is – compared to other men his age – very good at it.
Is he “68” good? Uh…almost certainly not.
UPDATE: This story has been updated with news from USGA that it had been hacked, and the 68 score was removed. It has also been updated to note that Leif Skodnick originally tweeted about Trump’s golf score.