After our round Trump, Mike and I sat on a veranda and ate sandwiches. Trump does not drink; he's never tasted the vodka that bears his name and has never sipped a postround beer. Trump had a brother Fred Trump Jr., 11 years older and named for their father who was a free spirit, a pilot, a good athlete and a bad drinker. Trump worshipped him and still carries the sorrow of his death, induced by booze, at age 43.
Trump was in no rush. He talked about various pro golfers, male and female, plus various football and baseball players, tennis stars and boxers and TV wrestlers. He knew, or thought he did, who was gay or adulterous or broke. The detail with which he described their private lives made you hang on every word, but it was his insight into how these people went about their business both as athletic heroes and as ordinary, failed human beings that was truly mesmerizing. He described the advice he gave to Natalie Gulbis, the pert LPGA player still looking for her first win. She had been saying in public that Ben Roethlisberger, the Super Bowl quarterback, had dumped her. "I never want to read that again," Trump said he had told her. "From now on I want to read that you dumped him." You could call it lying. Trump would call it marketing. He told her, "You don't get dumped."
After finishing his hamburger, Trump ordered another one to go. He went on a little riff about French fries and where they were best, at his Bedminster club or at his Westchester club. He seemed fascinated that I preferred the Westchester fries, which were thin and crisp, to the thick Bedminster fries. Steak fries, I noted, didn't travel well in those white Styrofoam to-go containers, in which they get all soggy in their own steam. I asked if the box had far to travel.
"Just a little ways," Trump said. "I'm bringing this home for Donnie." You may know Donald Trump Jr., Trump's 29-year-old son and oldest child, from The Apprentice.
A few minutes later Trump's Rolls-Royce was brought up to the club's front door. He put the container with the hamburger on the backseat, got behind the wheel and drove off.
Before he left, he said to Mike, "I want you to make sure that your man here writes a good story about me. But whether he does or he doesn't, I'm still worth six billion dollars."
Mike and I tried, but Trump wouldn't let us pay for a thing.
Over the next eight months I talked to Trump dozens of times and saw him a bunch too. . . .
I saw him in his office at Trump Tower and at his clubs. I watched him play with Annika Sorenstam. I talked to many people about Trump, including some who had negative experiences with him or knew somebody who did. There were people who had relationships with Trump that ended poorly, and there were people who would take their relationship with Trump to their graves. The response was often extreme.
Trump's funny. I'm still trying to figure out whether it's intentional or not. At Mar-a-Lago, a mansion he owns in Palm Beach, Fla., there's a portrait of Trump wearing one of those preppy white V-neck tennis sweaters, with the stripes at the neck. Underneath it are the words THE VISIONARY. That has to be a joke, right?
It's hard to tell with him. One day he was talking about an exhibition he had played in, Trump and Tom Watson against Annika and Natalie Gulbis, on a makeshift course on Governors Island, off Manhattan. The course was dirt interspersed with loose sod and rough greens. "It wasn't, as they say, in Trump National condition," he said, as if that's a phrase in common use.