LIV Golf players file anti-trust complaint against PGA Tour

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San Francisco (AFP) – Eleven LIV Golf players, including Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the US PGA Tour on Wednesday, with some seeking a restraining order to play in next week’s playoffs.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Northern District of California, challenges indefinite suspensions imposed by PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan on those who played in any of the first three events of the Saudi-backed tour. saudi.

The lawsuit begins a legal showdown between the rebel series and the established PGA Tour and whether the golfers are free agents or as tour members are subject to PGA Tour rules and penalties.

With LIV Golf events offering record purses of $25 million and some players reportedly offering big signing bonuses as well, some big names have joined the circuit despite criticism of Saudi human rights abuses.

“As the tour’s monopoly power grew, it used its dominance to create anti-competitive restraints to protect its long-standing monopoly,” according to the lawsuit.

“Threatened by the entry of LIV Golf and diametrically opposed to its founding mission, the Tour has ventured to harm the careers and livelihoods of all golfers…who have the temerity to challenge the Tour and participate in tournaments sponsored by the newcomer.

“The tour did this in an intentional and relentless effort to crush nascent competition before it threatened the tour’s monopoly.”

Australian Matt Jones and Americans Talor Gooch and Hudson Swafford want a temporary restraining order to play in next week’s first PGA Tour FedEx Cup playoff event in Memphis. They qualified based on season points before joining LIV Golf and being banned.

Other players who have taken legal action include Mexicans Abraham Ancer and Carlos Ortiz, Englishman Ian Poulter and Americans Jason Kokrak, Pat Perez and Peter Uihlein.

A memo from PGA commissioner Jay Monahan to players obtained by The Golf Channel said the tour was confident in its legal position regarding suspensions.

“We are preparing to protect our members and challenge this latest attempt to disrupt our tour and you should be confident in the legal validity of our position,” the memo reads.

“These suspended players, who are now employees of the Saudi Golf League, left the tour and now want to come back.

“With the Saudi Golf League on hiatus, they are trying to use lawyers to force their way into the competition alongside our members in good standing. This is an attempt to use the touring platform to promote themselves and enjoy your benefits and efforts for free.

“Allowing entry to our events compromises the tour and the competition to the detriment of our organization, our players, our partners and our fans.”

LIV Golf supported the lawsuit in a statement to The Golf Channel.

“The players are right to have brought this action to challenge the PGA Tour’s anti-competitive rules and to assert their rights as independent contractors to play wherever and whenever they choose,” the LIV Golf Series statement read.

“Despite the PGA Tour’s efforts to stifle competition, we believe golfers should be allowed to play golf.”

‘It’s frustrating’

The decision came on the eve of the Wyndham PGA Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina, and sparked emotional reactions.

“It looks like a quick cash grab for these guys,” said American JT Poston. “The money that is used to fight these lawsuits comes out of our pockets.”

Regarding LIV Golf players likely to make the PGA Playoffs, Poston added, “I don’t know if there will be hostility, but I know there are bridges that have been broken. Some guys won’t appreciate that.”

USA 2023 Ryder Cup Captain Zach Johnson called the lawsuit “extremely unfortunate”, adding: “It’s sad it’s come to this. You should choose one and that’s the way to go. follow.”

“You can’t have it both ways,” said American Will Zalatoris. “We’ve been working all year and they’re doing something detrimental.

“I think a lot of guys would be pretty frustrated if they were allowed to do both. Deep down, we all share the same feelings.”

“It’s frustrating,” said American Billy Horschel. “They made the decision to leave the PGA Tour. They should follow their employer. A lot of guys aren’t very happy.”

Michael C. Ford