LIV Golf is firing back at the PGA Tour’s harsh penalties for defectors. Phil Mickelson and a group of the new league’s participants filed an antitrust lawsuit against their former tour. Also listed as a claimant is Bryson DeChambeau. The lawsuit likely aims to reduce penalties against players leaving the PGA Tour.
Previously, the PGA Tour announced severe punishment – including indefinite suspensions – for defectors. While banishment wouldn’t impede LIV Golf players from participating in majors, it does prohibit golfers from the Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs.
The Wall Street Journal reports that LIV golfers Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones also filed temporary restraining orders as part of the lawsuit. The move is purely procedural, aimed at allowing the three athletes to participate in the Cup Playoffs beginning next week.
Gooch, Swafford and Jones all qualified for the FedEx Cup prior to their individual defection. However, as part of the PGA Tour’s blanketed suspensions, all three faced disqualification.
The United States Government’s LIV v. PGA Involvement
The U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation into the PGA Tour’s potentially anticompetitive behavior last month. According to the Tour’s bylaws, players may request exemptions to participate in outside tournaments. However, PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan suspended defectors, eliminating the possibly of granting exemptions.
LIV Golf CEO and legendary PGA golfer Greg Norman penned a letter in to Monahan in February, opening the gates for future litigation. The letter took an adversarial tone, furthering the divide between the two leagues.
“Simply put, you can’t ban players from playing golf. Players have the right and the freedom to play where we like,” Norman said. “When you try to bluff and intimidate players by bullying and threatening them, you are guilty of going too far, being unfair, and you likely are in violation of the law.”
Just last week, a report indicted Norman and the Saudi-backed league offered a whopping $700 million to Tiger Woods to join LIV Golf. The world’s greatest player declined the invitation, staying loyal to the league that brought him prominence.