It was obvious that the battle for the best players around the world would end when the PGA Tour suspended competitors in the LIV Golf Invitational Series.
On Wednesday, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau… and nine other LIV Golf players An antitrust lawsuit was filed in federal court. Three of the players. Matt Jones, Hudson SwaffordAnd Talor GoochThey also seek a temporary restraining or order to allow them to compete in this market. FedEx Cup Playoffs.
After a summer full of drama, defections, and incredible developments, the gloves are finally off.
I dont like the fact that theyre suing PGA Tour, because theyre suing all the players aswell, PGA Tour player Billy HorschelESPN reported the news Wednesday. We are PGA Tour. I am the PGA Tour. Collin MorikawaThe PGA Tour. Justin ThomasThe PGA Tour. The PGA Tour is made up of 200+ members.
Here are some of our favorite revelations from the lawsuit in the Northern District of California.
Is the PGA Tour collaborating with the majors
Lawyers representing the suspended players believe the PGA Tour bans on players who sign up for LIV Golf are greatly strengthened if the ban includes not just PGA Tour events but also four majors, which are managed by separate governing bodies.
The lawsuit stated that LIV Golf is aware that it can prevent LIV Golf players having access to these events, or create enough credible doubt as to whether participation in LIV Golf would end a player’s chances of playing in those tournaments. LIV Golf will find the signing and maintaining a critical mass to field a competitive elite-level touring team prohibitively difficult.
Lawyers for the players claim that the PGA Tour has encouraged Major organizations to join its group boycott to stop LIV Golf from joining the global golf ecosystem.
LIV players who were eligible for the majors were allowed to play this season.
LIV Golf has been the topic of much discussion among the four governing bodies. Seth Waugh, CEO of PGA of America, stated as early as May 2021 that the organization was in full support of both the PGA Tour and the European Tour in regards to the current ecosystem of professional golf.
Mike Whan, USGA CEO, stated at the U.S. Open June: Could your imagination imagine a day when it would be more difficult for some people doing other things to get into an U.S. Open? I could. Is that possible? I dont know but I can certainly foresee that day.
At last months Open Championship at St. Andrews, Martin Slumbers, CEO of the R&A, told reporters that LIV Golf is harming the perception of the sport.
Augusta National Golf Club chairman Fred Ridley has not taken such a tough line, at least, not publicly. However, LIV golfers lawyers charged him with working behind the scenes to help the PGA Tour in the lawsuit.
The complaint claimed Augusta National representatives threatened to disinvite The Masters players if they joined LIV Golf. It claimed Ridley personally instructed” players not to defect to LIV Golf during this years tournament and refused to meet with LIV Golf CEO. Greg NormanTo discuss the new circuits business model.
Further, the lawsuit alleges Slumbers, Ridley called Cho Minn Thant CEO of the Asian Tour to threaten consequences related to the Asian Tour’s position in the current ‘ecosystem’ if the Asian Tour continued supporting LIV Golf or its LIV Golf Invitational Series. The R&A took away the Asian Tours Order of Merit winners entry into The Open, according to the complaint.
Are the LIV players likely to win in court?
One of the challenges for the LIV Golf players, according to Craig Seebald, a partner and antitrust expert at Vinson & Elkins law firm, is proving injury. Many of the players who quit the PGA Tour to play LIV Golf were awarded guaranteed signing bonuses of $100 million to $200 million.
Normally, when representing plaintiffs, you will say, Oh my God, our Plaintiffs are so hurt. They are so hurt. Seebald said that they were going out of business. But the complaint states that in order to get these players over the transom and to be part LIV, they had a ton of to pay them. They were surprised that they had made all these upfront payments to bring people over. I think they are saying that this makes it difficult for them in the long-term to be financially viable, despite the fact that the Saudis have given them millions of dollars.
Seebald believes that it will be difficult to get temporary restraining orders for three LIV players to take part in the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Seebald did point out that the Northern District of California is a popular venue for antitrust litigants. Its also the court that essentially destroyed the NCAAs amateurism concept in the Ed OBannon matter.
I think they are unlikely to do that, said I think. [issue a restraining order]Seebald said. This is essentially an money case. I believe the court would respond, Look, well sort it out later. This is a huge case. This is a big case.
Horschel, a member PGA Tour Player Advisory Committee wondered how LIV golf players could claim that they were hurt after receiving lucrative signing bonuses.
Why should they be a part the PGA Tour? Horschel said. Why do they need to double dip? Horschel said. Why is it necessary for them to have their cake and eat it simultaneously and then rub it in the faces of all the other PGA Tour players? It just doesnt make any sense to me.
LIV Golf was almost partnered with DP World Tour
One of the more surprising revelations was the meeting of representatives of Saudi Golf with DP World Tour officials at Malta in July. According to the complaint Keith Pelley, DP World Tour CEO, confirmed that the new series was appealing and fit. However, he said that the mighty power of the PGA Tour was his main concern and that he needs to avoid a collision course between the DP World Tour (PGA Tour) and DP World Tour.
Under pressure by themighty power of the PGA Tour the European Tour agreed not to cooperate with the new entrant and instead decided to boycott it, the complaint states.
The lawyers claimed that the PGA Tour pressured DP World Tour to change its regulations to prevent its players participating in LIV Golf tournaments. The DP World Tour suspended its players from all events it co-sanctions, including the Scottish Open, and fined them $125,000.
The complaint stated that The European Tour accepted all of the PGA Tour demands to implement the group boycott.
Mickelson was expelled in March
Mickelsons controversial comments made to Alan Shipnuck by Mickelson about the Saudis are scary momf —— He was forced to take a break from golf for four months. However, he wasnt the only one who took a break.
The lawsuit claimed Mickelson was a six-time major champion and was first suspended by the PGA Tour for 2 months on March 22nd for attempting to recruit players. [LIV Golf]. Mickelsons suspension was upheld by an appeals panel. He applied for reinstatement two months later, but was denied by an appeals committee because he had been playing in the first LIV Golf event at London.
The lawsuit stated that Mickelson was harmed by the Tours illegal conduct. Notably, The Tour is the only regular broadcast golf tour in the United States and it earns far more in sponsorship, advertising and broadcast revenue than any other tour.
DeChambeau has signed with LIV Golf twice
DeChambeau was the 2020 U.S. Open winner and one of the most polarizing golfers in the game. He was already a part of LIV Golf before he signed on June 10.
According to the lawsuit DeChambeau was twice signed with the Saudi-backed circuit. LIV Golf couldnt fill its league plans this season due to the PGA Tour’s threats for punishment and career ruin.
Some players (including Plaintiff Delchambeau) who had signed contracts with LIV Golf previously were forced to publicly proclaim their loyalty to the Tour, the lawsuit stated. Other players who had previously signed in principle all terms with LIV Golf told LIV Golf they could no longer sign and instead publicly declared their loyalty to the Tour. LIV Golf received a number of threats from players who were enthusiastic about joining LIV Golf.
What about Ryder Cup?
The lawsuit alleges that PGA of America representatives threatened golfers and their representative at the 2021 Ryder Cup in Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, that they would be banned for future Ryder Cups as well as the PGA Championship if the golfers joined LIV Golf.
Waugh stated previously to reporters that U.S. players must be a member of the PGA Tour to participate in the Ryder Cup. This is an event which the PGA of America and the DP World Tour co-organize.
Waugh reiterated the organizations position at the PGA Championship in Southern Hills in May.
Zach JohnsonIn June, the U.S. team captain at the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome (Italy) was asked if LIV players would be eligible to receive captains picks.
Johnson stated that the PGA Tour is how we became members of PGA of America. Ill let the dots connect from there.
The complaint was filed by attorneys representing LIV players asking the judge to [p]Stop the PGA Tour conspiring or illegally agreeing to ban or threaten players from participating or participating in European Tour events or the Ryder Cup because they are talking to, contracting, playing in, or associating in LIV Golf.
LIV Golf is not liked by sponsors and vendors on the PGA Tour.
Perhaps the most surprising claim in the complaint was that LIV Golf had refused to do business with several long-standing PGA Tour sponsors and vendors, including golf equipment, apparel, and technology companies.
The lawsuit stated that LIV Golf tried to establish a business relationship between Dicks Sporting Goods and LIV Golf. In response, Dicks Sporting Goods informed LIV Golf of its intention to terminate the business relationship with LIV Golf.[g]iven our relationship and Tournament with the PGA Tour [PGA Tour Champions tournament], [Dicks Sporting Goods representatives]Its best to accept that its best for you to pass right away.
According to the complaint, Ticketmaster was ready to work with LIV Golf. However, Ticketmaster allegedly pulled out in response to pressure by the PGA Tour.