Eleven golfers affiliated with the breakaway LIV Golf series have filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour, difficult its suspensions and other restrictive measures used to punish those that signed on to play within the Saudi-backed LIV events.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday within the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, argues that the PGA Tour is unfairly controlling players with anticompetitive restraints to guard its longstanding monopoly on skilled golf.
The grievance — filed on behalf of Phil Mickelson and others — alleges that the tour had “ventured to harm” their careers and livelihoods. “The Tour’s illegal strategy has been each harmful to the players and successful in threatening LIV Golf’s otherwise-promising launch,” it said.
The players Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones also sought an order to permit them to take part in the FedEx Cup playoffs, the PGA Tour’s season-ending championship events.
“The punishment that may accrue to those players from not with the ability to play within the FedEx Cup Playoffs is substantial and irreparable, and a brief restraining order is required to forestall the irreparable harm that may ensue were they to not give you the chance to participate,” the grievance said.
A Quick Guide to the LIV Golf Series
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A latest series. The launch of latest Saudi-financed LIV Golf series has resurfaced longstanding questions on athletes’ moral obligations and their desire to compete and earn money. Here’s what to know:
What’s LIV Golf? The series is an upstart skilled golf circuit bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Its organizers hope to position it as a player-power-focused alternative to the PGA Tour, which has been the very best level of professional golf for nearly a century.
Why is the brand new series controversial? The event has created sparks inside golf for upending the traditions and strictures of how the sport is played. It has also turn into a lightning rod for human rights campaigners who accuse Saudi Arabia of using sports to launder its repute.
Who’s playing it? A lot of the largest names in golf, reminiscent of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, have stayed away from LIV Golf. But several big names and former major champions, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio García, joined. Henrik Stenson of Sweden, who was alleged to lead Europe’s team on the 2023 Ryder Cup, was removed as captain after announcing his move to the series.
What’s attracting the players? The LIV Golf events are the richest tournaments in golf history. The primary tournament’s total purse was $25 million, and the winner’s share was $4 million. The last-place finisher at each event was guaranteed $120,000. That’s on top of the looks fees and nine-figure signing-on payouts some players have accepted.
Ian Poulter, Pat Perez, Peter Uihlein, Abraham Ancer, Carlos Ortiz, Jason Kokrak and Bryson DeChambeau are also listed as plaintiffs.
The LIV Golf circuit is bankrolled by the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, which is overseen by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and has turn into a lightning rod for human rights campaigners who accuse Saudi Arabia of using sports to launder its repute.
It has also caused a stir amongst skilled golfers for upending the game itself. The series has poached several distinguished players from the PGA Tour with mammoth upfront payments and appearance fees. Mickelson, a six-time major-tournament winner, reportedly received $200 million.
Tiger Woods, who harshly criticized the LIV format and defectors from the PGA Tour by saying they “turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position,” turned down a suggestion of about $700 million to hitch LIV, based on Greg Norman, the previous championship golfer who’s LIV’s chief executive.
In June, the PGA Tour suspended several players for participating within the rival golf series just moments after that they had hit their first shots. In a letter, the PGA Tour’s commissioner, Jay Monahan, warned any members planning to take part in the long run they might also expect banishment.
The lawsuit said that the PGA Tour, amongst other things, is stopping vigorous competition, depressing compensation and denying the LIV players the fitting to free agency for his or her services.
In a letter sent Wednesday to PGA Tour players, Monahan said that the tour had been preparing to contest the legal claims and to guard its membership.
“You need to be confident within the legal merits of our position,” Monahan said. “Fundamentally, these suspended players — who at the moment are Saudi Golf League employees — have walked away form the tour and now want back in.”
The players, he added, were attempting to force their way back into the PGA Tour through legal means. But allowing them back in, Monahan said, would compromise the tour and the competition to the detriment of the organization, players and fans.
He added: “The lawsuit they’ve filed someway expects us to imagine the alternative, which is why we intend to make our case clearly and vigorously.”
Bill Pennington and Michael Levenson contributed reporting.