Obama tees off in Hawaii with Malaysian leader

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KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii (AP) - What do two world leaders do when they find themselves on the same Hawaiian island on Christmas Eve? If you're President Barack Obama and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, you round up a few aides and make common cause on the golf course.

Both vacationing this week in Oahu, Obama and Najib teed off Wednesday on a cloudy but balmy afternoon at a Marine Corps base, not far from where Obama is renting a home for his two-week stay. The two leaders seemed at ease together, smiling and laughing in casual clothes as they sized up their shots.

Although Obama plays golf nearly every day while on vacation, he typically restricts his foursome to a small circle of longtime friends and advisers. But in recent years, his annual trip to Hawaii has allowed Obama to mix in a little diplomacy. Last year, he hit the links with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who owns a home in Hawaii.

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Obama Hawaii Vacation - updated 12/25
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Obama tees off in Hawaii with Malaysian leader
President Barack Obama plays golf with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, right, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014, at Marine Corps Base Hawaii's Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course in Kaneohe, Hawaii during the Obama family vacation. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama, right, with White House aide Mike Brush at back left, walks away from the 18th hole while playing golf with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and White House aide Joe Paulsen, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014, at Marine Corps Base Hawaii's Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course in Kaneohe, Hawaii during the Obama family vacation. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama plays golf with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, right, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014, at Marine Corps Base Hawaii's Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course in Kaneohe, Hawaii during the Obama family vacation. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama, left, plays golf with White House aide Joe Paulsen, and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, right in pink, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014, at Marine Corps Base Hawaii's Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course in Kaneohe, Hawaii during the Obama family vacation. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama plays golf with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, right, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014, at Marine Corps Base Hawaii's Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course in Kaneohe, Hawaii during the Obama family vacation. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama, left, smiles at Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak as they play golf, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014, at Marine Corps Base Hawaii's Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course in Kaneohe, Hawaii during the Obama family vacation. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
US President Barack Obama jokes with reporters as he plays golf with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razzak at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on December 24, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama jokes with reporters as he plays golf with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razzak at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on December 24, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama puts his golf clubs in a golf cart after finishing the 18th hole with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Joe Paulsen, and White House aide Mike Brush on Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014, on the Marine Corps Base Hawaii's Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course in Kaneohe, Hawaii during the Obama family vacation. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
First lady Michelle Obama hugs Admiral Samuel Locklear III, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, with daughter Sasha Obama, left, and Malia Obama, far right, and President Barack Obama as the first family arrives at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to begin their family vacation Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Obama family dogs, Bo, left, and Sunny, board Air Force One from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, en route to the Obama family vacation in Hawaii. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, board Air Force One from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, en route to their family vacation in Hawaii. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
A boy holding a U.S. flag and a candy cane looks for the arrival of the motorcade carrying President Barack Obama to play golf at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, in Kailua, Hawaii, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The motorcade carrying President Barack Obama to play golf at Marine Corps Base Hawaii passes people holding a variety of signs including ones that say "Stop the Killer Drones," and "More Immigration Reform..and Thanks," in Kailua, Hawaii, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The motorcade carrying President Barack Obama to play golf at Marine Corps Base Hawaii passes a waving child in Kailua, Hawaii, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama walks with Sasha Obama as first lady Michelle Obama walks with Malia Obama, as the first family arrives at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to begin their family vacation Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Sasha Obama, left, watches as Admiral Samuel Locklear III, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, greets President Barack Obama, as first lady Michelle Obama walks with Malia Obama, far right, as the first family arrives at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to begin their family vacation Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Obama family dogs, Bo, left, and Sunny, board Air Force One from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, en route to the Obama family vacation in Hawaii. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama and the first family disembark Air Force One after arriving at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for their annual family Christmas vacation Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, in Honolulu. The first family will be staying in Kailua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
President Barack Obama, right, with his daughter Sasha, bottom left, the first lady Michelle Obama, top left center, and their other daughter Malia top right, disembark Air Force One after arriving at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for their annual family Christmas vacation Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, in Honolulu. The first family will be staying in Kailua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
The first family, Sasha Obama, left, Malia Obama, President Barack Obama, and first lady Michelle Obama, in second row, walk to board Air Force One from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, en route to their family vacation in Hawaii. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama, right, with his daughter Sasha, bottom left, the first lady Michelle Obama, top center, and their other daughter Malia top right, disembark Air Force One after arriving at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for their annual family Christmas vacation Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, in Honolulu. The first family will be staying in Kailua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)
President Barack Obama salutes as he and his daughter Malia step from Air Force One, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, in Andrews Air Force Base, Md., as they return from their annual family vacation in Hawaii. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama, right, hugs his daughter Sasha as they and Malia, left, return to the White House from their fifteen-day family vacation in Hawaii, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. First lady Michelle Obama stayed behind in Hawaii as a birthday present from her husband. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
US President Barack Obama and his daughter Sasha walk to Marine One helicopter on the South Lawn of the White House December 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. Obama and the first family travel to Hawaii for a holiday vacation. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 19: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and her daughter Malia Obama leave the White House for their holiday vacation December 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. The first family will spend Christmas and the New Year in Hawaii. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (2nd L), First Lady Michelle Obama (3rd R) and daughters Malia (L)and Sasha (3rd L) arrive at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu on December 19, 2014 at the start of their annual Christmas vacation in Hawaii. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
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Media access to Obama's golf games is typically restricted, but reporters and photographers were permitted to briefly watch the two leaders Wednesday about halfway through their game. Neither leader was having particularly good luck with their short game.

Up first to finish the hole, Najib came up short with his putt. Obama crouched low to line up his shot, but the ball tilted left and evaded the hole. After another failed attempt, he picked up the ball and called it quits. Najib, too, missed his next shot, but a gracious Obama gave him a pat on the shoulder and praised his golf game just the same.

"Merry Christmas," Obama said as he waved to the media.

Then he added a note of caution for reporters covering his Hawaiian getaway.

"Be careful about those fruity drinks," he said. "You never know - they might have a little kick to them."

Ever the statesmen, Obama and Najib also used their time on the course to discuss world affairs, including Malaysia's rotating leadership next year of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. "The two leaders took the opportunity to discuss the growing and warming relationship between the United States and Malaysia," the White House said in a statement.

Najib has served as Malaysia's prime minister since 2009. In April, Obama paid the first presidential visit to Malaysia in nearly half a century, when Lyndon B. Johnson visited the Southeast Asian nation. During that visit, Obama met with Najib and pressed his government to improve its human rights and political freedoms.

Obama is no stranger to Hawaii's picturesque golf courses, and this year's vacation has been par for the course. The president has played a round four out of the five days he's been on the island so far.

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