Donald Trump has said live sports are good for the “collective psyche” when he dialled into a golf broadcast to applaud the event.
He said: “We want to get it back to where it was – we want big, big stadiums loaded with people,” the US president said.
The sporting calendar has been thrown into disarray by the coronavirus pandemic in recent months, but events are slowly beginning to return across the world.
The president said he was tired of watching old golf tournaments and wanted events to return with big crowds.
Mr Trump also responded to Rory McIlroy’s vow to never play golf with the president again after his response to the COVID-19 crisis, saying some professional golfers liked his policies and others did not.
His comments came in a call to TV coverage as McIlroy and three other golfers competed in the TaylorMade Driving Relief skins tournament in Florida on Sunday, which raised more than $5m (£4.1m) for coronavirus charities.
McIlroy caused controversy when he said while he had played with the golf-loving president in the past and enjoyed it, he would not play with the president again due to his politicising of the coronavirus pandemic.
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The Northern Irishman said on the McKellar Golf podcast: “We’re in the midst of something that’s pretty serious right now and the fact that he’s trying to politicise it and make it a campaign rally and say we’re administering the most tests in (the) world like it is a contest – there’s something that just is terrible.
“It’s not the way a leader should act. I don’t know if he’d want to play with me again after what I just said, but I wouldn’t (play with him again).”
Asked about McIlroy’s comments, Mr Trump said: “A lot of them (golfers) are very political, actually. A lot of them like my politics very much and some don’t, I guess.
“The ones that don’t I don’t get to see as much.”
World number one McIlroy teamed up with Dustin Johnson against Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in Sunday’s charity event at Seminole Golf Club.
Mr Trump also said it was “wonderful” to be watching the likes of McIlroy playing golf again as he underlined the importance of getting sport back quickly for the “psyche” of the nation.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has returned behind closed doors and the Bundesliga became the first top league to resume this weekend, and there was live golf on TV in the form of the TaylorMade Driving Relief – a two-team skins challenge over 18 holes.
Mr Trump said: “It’s a wonderful thing to see. I’m getting a little tired watching 10-year-old golf tournaments where you know who won. It’s very nice to be watching and very nice to be with you.
“We want to get sports back,” he added. “We miss sports, we need sports in terms of the psyche – the psyche of our country – and that’s what we’re doing.”
“It’ll start off with small crowds, if any. You saw UFC the other night, they had really just a lighted ring in the middle of an empty arena and I’m not sure that so many people missed the fans. I don’t think so in that particular case.
“But, look, we want to get it back to where it was. We want big, big stadiums loaded with people.”
The first four PGA Tour events will not have fans as golf restarts behind closed doors but Mr Trump said “after that hopefully it’ll be back” to having supporters in the stands.
He said: “We don’t want to have 15,000 people watching Alabama – LSU, as an example, we want to have the masses, we want to have big crowds.
“Right now that’s not what they’re planning, but you never know what happens. Things can happen very quickly.”