PGA Tour Fires Back at LIV Golf Following Filing of Antitrust Lawsuit

by Patrick Norton

The PGA Tour refuses to roll over in its battle for supremacy against LIV Golf. While the new Saudi-backed league certainly has the firepower to compete by throwing millions at high-profile stars, the Tour isn’t giving up the fight.

After Phil Mickelson and ten other defectors attached themselves to an antitrust lawsuit against their former league, PGA fired back. The original lawsuit aimed toward reducing harsh penalties for golfers leaving for LIV Golf. And while golfers in both entities may participate in majors, PGA’s Tour event ban takes a greater toll on three LIV golfers.

Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones simultaneously filed temporary restraining orders against the Tour. Currently suspended from the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs beginning this week, all three golfers qualified for the event prior to their defection.

The Tour’s 32-page response to the lawsuit specifically targets the three claimants, saying they knew the ramifications of joining LIV Golf, “knowing full well that they would breach Tour Regulations.”

The response later highlights, “[LIV Golf] paid them tens and hundreds of millions of dollars in guaranteed money supplied by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund to procure their breaches.”

The Tour says defectors “have waited nearly two months to seek relief from the Court, fabricating an ’emergency’ they now maintain requires immediate action. It doesn’t.”

Is The PGA Tour Fighting a Losing Battle?

The Tour’s response to the lawsuit attacks the morals of the Saudi-backed league. But it fails to acknowledge the Tour’s monopolizing the golf market. As high-profile players accept the monstrous paydays to forgo PGA success, the attention and notoriety of LIV Golf grows.

Even without a proper television rights deal in the United States, the country’s desire the watch the best athletes perform surpasses any moral obligation. Market value for golfers simply skyrocketed thanks to LIV Golf’s entrance. Right or wrong, the PGA Tour’s harshly adversarial tone makes building a bridge down the road incredibly difficult.

LIV Golf can probably coexist with the Tour. But the league’s infringement on the player pool makes a relationship an unlikely reality. Instead, the PGA Tour hammers away at the morally bankrupt defectors. But tremendous talents keep leaving for larger, guaranteed contracts.

The opportunity for resolution appears too far gone. It unfortunately seems the issues between the leagues leaves space for the success of just one. Once LIV receives U.S. television rights, it’s up to the viewer to choose just one for prosperity.