Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and nine other LIV Golf players have filed an antitrust suit against the PGA Tour. The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the case.
The players are challenging their tour bans for defecting to the Saudi-backed circuit. Three of those in the lawsuit — Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones — are seeking a temporary restraining order that will allow them to play the FedEx Cup Playoffs, which begin next week at the FedEx St. Jude Championship in Memphis. All three would have qualified for the tour’s postseason had they not been suspended.
The PGA Tour announced in June that it had suspended 17 PGA Tour members who defected to LIV Golf after participating in the inaugural LIV Golf event in London. “As you know, the players below have not received the necessary conflicting event releases and media rights – or have not requested any releases at all – and their participation in the Saudi Golf League/LIV Golf event is in violation of our tournament rules,” read a memo from PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan. “The same fate applies to all other players who participate in future Saudi Golf League events in violation of our rules.”
One of the provisions of the PGA Tour Player Handbook and Tournament Regulations is that each member of the PGA Tour acknowledges that the Commissioner, the Tour’s Policy Board and the Appeals Committee have the authority to permanently prohibit a member from participating in the tour that is co-sponsored, approved or coordinated. tournaments if the member violates its rules. The handbook also provides that a player will cease to be a member of the PGA Tour if, in the discretion of the Policy Board, the member commits a serious violation of the Tournament Rules, the PGA Tour Code of Ethics or otherwise behaves in a manner inappropriate for a professional golfer.
Such an arrangement generally prohibits tour players from participating in events when a PGA Tour approved or sponsored event is taking place at the same time. According to the handbook, players who reach the minimum of 15 events (which members must meet as a condition of their membership voting rights) will be eligible for three conflicting events per season. That’s why so many tour players were allowed to play in the Saudi Invitational earlier this year. However, the regulations also state that such requests can be rejected.
The complaint and request for a temporary restraining order have been filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Others named in the lawsuit include Ian Poulter, Abraham Ancer, Carlos Ortiz, Pat Perez, Jason Kokrak and Peter Uihlein. LIV Golf members such as Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Kevin Na were not named, as they canceled their PGA Tour membership.
The tour is adamant that they have the legal authority to issue disciplinary action, and LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman has openly expressed his wish for players to challenge that authority. In addition, Norman telegraphed his lawsuits in an open letter to the tour.
Last month, three LIV Golf members won a temporary contract from a UK arbitrator to play in Scottish Genesis Open, an event co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.
The PGA Tour did not respond to a request from Golf Digest for comment.