Former US President Barack Obama is questioning Sir John Key's counting skills in the golfing match that Team NZ won yesterday.

National leader Simon Bridges had a brief phone call with the 44th US President this morning.

He says Obama described Key as "a terrible golf cheat" after the former president lost at Kauri Cliffs yesterday.

Bridges took the call in the Koru Lounge at Wellington Airport this morning. Obama was with Key at the time.


"Most importantly was the conversation around the golf. He's really enjoyed that but he's not so sure about Sir John's counting on the golf course," Bridges said.

"He may have used the word cheat, but I won't go there."

Simon chatting to President Barack Obama after the golf match with John Key. I might be a bit biased, but having led NZ for 8 years I'm pretty confident John knows how to count. ๐Ÿ˜€

Posted by Brett Hudson MP on Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Obama spent yesterday at Kauri Cliffs golf course, where Key said Team NZ - the pairing of Key and billionaire Craig Heatley - won after the second playoff hole.

Asked if Obama had called Key a cheat, Bridges said: "It's more a word of a question ... The [former] President remarked about intrigue about the counting skills of Sir John Key on the course."

Bridges said he spoke to Obama through Key's phone.

"The [former] President confirmed he's had a great time here, really enjoying it, he and John have been talking a bit about me, so it's nice to have a sense that he's heard about me.

"It was a brief conversation, very warm, about the good time he's had in New Zealand. I was able to pass on that Sir John had been doing a bit of practising up there in advance of the game, so he wasn't going into it cold."

Bridges said the money forked out for the visit was worth it.

"Those pictures of him out on a pristine course with New Zealand's beautiful scenery are quite literally priceless."

Obama will have a chance to redeem himself on a New Zealand golf course this morning.

Later today Obama will be welcomed with a powhiri at Government House โ€“ the first opportunity for many to get a close up look at the President.

He will then have a meeting with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who was remaining quiet about what she would discuss with him.

Obama's main event will be a dinner and discussion with actor Sam Neill tonight in front of 800 โ€“ 1000 guests at the Viaduct Events Centre.

That meal has been chosen and overseen by chef Peter Gordon, who was flown over from London by Air NZ for the occasion.

While Obama is steering clear of politics, his speaking event turned into a political football at Parliament yesterday after Regional Development Minister Shane Jones' attacks on Air New Zealand for cuts to regional services.

That prompted Simon Bridges to question why Jones was accepting corporate hospitality from Air NZ to attend the Obama speech if he was so angry with them.

Jones said he still intended to attend and was entitled to because the Government was a majority shareholder.