HONOLULU — President Obama has generally refrained from mixing business and pleasure on the golf course. On vacation here in Hawaii, he has mostly hit the links with the same circle of longtime friends and White House aides he usually pals around with. Until Wednesday, when a newbie joined the First Foursome — Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The White House said Najib, along with aides Joe Paulsen and Mike Brush, was playing with the president on the course at the Marine Corps base at Kanehoe Bay. Turns out Najib was in town on his own getaway, and it is not unprecedented for Obama to do a golf summit with a world leader. Last year in Hawaii, he played with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key. (In 2011, Obama famously played a round with House Speaker John A. Boehner at Andrews Air Force Base that did not exactly lead to a good working relationship off the course.)
Obama has established perhaps a better working relationship with Najib, after making the first visit by a sitting U.S. president to Malaysia in nearly half a century last spring. It was unlikely they had an in-depth discussion of their foreign policy agendas on the course, however, but perhaps focusing instead on trying to avoid the sand traps.
In a statement, the White House said: "The two leaders took the opportunity to discuss the growing and warming relationship between the United States and Malaysia. The president said he looked forward to working with Prime Minister Najib in 2015, during Malaysia's chair year of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations."
On the 18th hole, reporters were allowed onto the course briefly. Obama missed a putt to the left off the hole, then tried to tap in but "picked the ball up before it missed again," according to a pool report. Najib also missed a second putt, but Obama consoled him with a pat on the shoulder.
Wall Street Journal reporter Carol Lee asked Obama if he planned to watch "The Interview," the Sony movie that will be released on Christmas after the studio initially canceled the release in the wake of the company being hacked, allegedly by North Korea.
"I'm glad it's being released," replied Obama, who had criticized the studio last week for its initial decision.
The president wished the reporters a Merry Christmas, according to Lee, then offered: "Be careful about those fruity drinks. You never know they might have a little kick."
Lee reports that she asked him if he'd been drinking fruity drinks, but he didn't respond.