Phil Mickelson among 11 LIV golf players to sue PGA Tour for antitrust violations

Phil Mickelson is among 11 players who joined the LIV Golf Invitational Series who are suing the PGA Tour for violating antitrust laws, with three of them seeking an injunction so they can play in the FedEx Cup playoffs next week.

The players are contesting their suspensions with the PGA Tour, which has issued indefinite suspensions for any player who participated in a LIV Golf event without obtaining a conflicting event release. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Northern California. SI.com obtained a copy of the lawsuit, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

“LIV is paying. They’re supporting us, which is good for once,” Pat Perez said in a text message to SI.com. “I’m glad the big players are behind it.”

The Tour has announced that it will not grant releases for the eight events that will be played this year at the end of May; he has never granted such releases for domestic tournaments played opposite PGA Tour events.

“As part of its carefully orchestrated plan to defeat the competition, the Tour has threatened lifetime bans on players who play even a single LIV golf event,” the lawsuit states. “He backed up these threats by imposing unprecedented suspensions on players (including the claimants) who threaten to cause irreparable harm to players and their ability to practice their profession. He threatened sponsors, vendors and agents of coercing players into giving up opportunities to play in LIV Golf events. And he orchestrated a per se illegal group boycott with the European Tour to deny LIV Golf access to its members.”

Bryson DeChambeau is part of the lawsuit, as are three players – Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones – who are seeking a restraining order so they can compete in the playoffs which begin next week at the FedEx St. Jude Invitational and follow with the BMW Championship then the Tour Championship. Gooch is 20 years olde in the FedEx Cup standings, with Jones 62nd and Swafford 63rd, so each would qualify easily.

“The players are right to have brought this action to challenge the PGA’s anti-competitive rules and to assert their rights as independent contractors to play wherever and whenever they choose,” LIV Golf said in a statement. “Despite the PGA Tour’s efforts to stifle competition, we believe golfers should be allowed to play golf.”

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LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman recently told Sports Illustrated that LIV will support players who have chosen to pursue the Tour because of their belief that as independent contractors they should not be banned from playing in LIV Golf events.

Norman has long argued that as independent contractors, players should have the ability to play whenever they want outside of the PGA Tour.

“I always told them we would support you,” Norman said. “I have been open and honest with each of them. We will support them financially with representation because we believe 100% that we are right. You can’t guarantee anything, but the indicators are pointing in that direction.”

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan released a statement Wednesday afternoon in response to the lawsuit.

“Basically these suspended players – who are now employees of the Saudi Golf League – have walked away from 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 competing alongside our members in good standing. It’s an attempt to use the Tour platform to promote ourselves and take advantage of your benefits,” he said.

Other players taking part in the trial are Abraham Ancer, Carlos Ortiz, Ian Poulter, Pat Perez, Jason Kokrak and Peter Uihlein.

The complaint also reveals that Mickelson – long thought to be suspended by the PGA Tour before his LIV commitment – ​​was suspended on March 23 due to his player recruiting for LIV Golf. The PGA Tour never disclosed this, nor did Mickelson.

This story will be updated as new information becomes available.

Michael C. Ford