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PGA Tour’s Fight With LIV Golf Reaches Justice Department

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The conflict upending men’s skilled golf spread to a latest setting with the Justice Department investigating the PGA Tour for anticompetitive behavior in its dealings with the breakaway LIV Golf series, a tour spokeswoman confirmed Monday.

The PGA Tour has suspended players who’ve defied tour regulations and took part in two recent LIV Golf events without the PGA Tour’s permission. Greg Norman, the chief executive of LIV Golf, whose major shareholder is the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, has castigated the tour’s stance as an “illegal monopoly.”

Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, has repeatedly countered that his organization’s policies will arise to legal review, including if a lawsuit is filed by a suspended PGA Tour member, which is anticipated. The PGA Tour has pointed to a 1994 federal probe examining comparable disciplinary measures by the tour against golfers playing in a non-PGA Tour event without the commissioner’s permission. The tour received no federal sanctions at the moment.

“We went through this in 1994 and we’re confident in an identical consequence,” Laura Neal, a PGA Tour executive vice chairman, wrote in an email Monday. Of the Justice Department inquiry, Neal said: “This was not unexpected.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment, citing the longstanding policy of neither confirming nor denying reports of continuous investigations.

A Quick Guide to the LIV Golf Series

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A latest series. The launch of recent 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.

Who’s playing it? The 48 players within the initial LIV Golf event weren’t exactly a who’s who of golf, and lots of of the most important names in the game, reminiscent of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, have stayed away. But there have been big names and former major champions, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio García.

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.

The investigation of the PGA Tour was first reported in The Wall Street Journal. Representatives of LIV Golf didn’t reply to an email requesting comment.

The LIV Golf circuit, which has hosted two of eight events planned for this 12 months, has poached several distinguished players from the PGA Tour with mammoth upfront payments and appearance fees. Phil Mickelson, a six-time major winner, reportedly received $200 million.

The LIV tournaments have offered total prize money as high as $20 million, with the last-place contestant guaranteed $120,000. With a separate pool of cash for a team competition, some golfers have earned nearly $1 million at a single event after ending in the underside third of the sector. The rebel circuit has also attracted PGA Tour players by offering a limited schedule, although the LIV Golf schedule plans to expand to 14 tournaments next 12 months, which is roughly the identical number a typical PGA Tour golfer currently plays in a tour season.

Nonetheless, recognizable names like Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Sergio García and Louis Oosthuizen have left the PGA Tour for the LIV Golf series. The world rankings for virtually all the players in that group have been in decline in recent seasons. And rankings points, that are key for players to be invited to the 4 major golf championships, aren’t available at LIV Golf events.

Mickelson has slumped from thirty eighth in the lads’s world rankings to 92nd. García has gone from forty fifth to 68th. DeChambeau began the 12 months ranked ninth and is now thirty third, and Johnson, who was ranked eighth this 12 months, is now 18th.

Mickelson, 52, was heavily criticized and lost several longtime corporate sponsors this 12 months when he acknowledged he supported the LIV Golf series because he viewed it as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to leverage the PGA Tour for expanded payments to players. On the LIV competitions, nevertheless, he has seemed uncomfortable on the golf course.

He has shot higher than 75 just once in two tournaments, ending 10 over par at each event.

Last week, in a British court, three LIV-aligned golfers appealed their suspensions from a Scottish golf tournament and won a short lived stay allowing them to compete within the event. The commissioner of the DP World Tour, formerly the European Tour, who had issued the suspensions against the LIV golfers — and fined each about $120,000 — vowed to proceed to press the courts to uphold the discipline imposed.

Monahan remained confident of the tour’s position in its duel with LIV Golf as well.

Late last month, in response to LIV Golf’s plentiful tournament payouts, Monahan announced significant prize money increases in coming PGA Tour events, and added that the tour would “ultimately come out of the present challenge stronger due to our loyalty and support of our players and fans.”

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