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PGA Tour vs. LIV Golf

PGA Tour says LIV members seeking to play in FedEx Cup are 'fabricating an emergency' and knew they were breaking the rules

August 08, 2022

Michael Reaves

The PGA Tour has responded to the LIV Golf members who are seeking a temporary restraining order to play in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, which begin this week, with the tour stating the suspended players knew they were breaking the tour’s rules.

In a 32-page response to TRO motions filed last week by Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford as part of the “Mickelson, et al. v. PGA TOUR, Inc.” lawsuit, the PGA Tour says the TRO plaintiffs waited nearly two months to seek relief from the court, “fabricating an ‘emergency’ they now maintain requires immediate action.”

“Despite knowing full well that they would breach Tour Regulations and be suspended for doing so, plaintiffs have joined competing golf league LIV Golf, which has paid them tens and hundreds of millions of dollars in guaranteed money supplied by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund to procure their breaches,” reads the tour response. “TRO plaintiffs now run into court seeking a mandatory injunction to force their way into the Tour’s season-ending FedExCup Playoffs, an action that would harm all Tour members that follow the rules. The antitrust laws do not allow Plaintiffs to have their cake and eat it too.”

The TRO hearing is scheduled for Tuesday at 1 p.m. local time in San Jose. The first FedEx Cup Playoff event—the FedEx St. Jude Championship—begins Thursday morning at TPC Southwind in Memphis.

The tour cites Jones’ own statements as part of its defense. When asked if he knew he would be banned from the tour for playing without a conflicting event-release, Jones said, "[y]ou’ve got to expect" it and acknowledged the possibility of never playing on the PGA Tour again after his suspension. “I did come to this [LIV] series and this tournament with the understanding that could be the case.”

The tour also takes issue with Gooch’s claim at the Open Championship that he only intended to play one LIV Golf event before getting suspended, with the tour stating Gooch’s intention was to play in more events aside from the London invitational.

Other arguments included in the response are the tour’s assertion it did not pressure sponsors to drop endorsement deals with LIV Golf members, that it did not collude with the DP World Tour, and that it did enlist players like Tiger Woods to intimidate younger players from defecting.

“For the foregoing reasons, the PGA Tour respectfully requests that the court deny TRO,” ends the response.

"The players’ participation in the LIV league is in violation of the PGA Tour's Handbook and Tournament Regulations,” said Elliot Peters of Keker, Van Nest & Peters, lead counsel representing the PGA Tour. “For enormous sums of cash supplied by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, Plaintiffs willfully breached their agreements with the PGA Tour. The players’ purported harm is entirely self-induced. We will litigate this case vigorously to preserve the reputation of the PGA Tour and protect the benefits it offers to players.”

It’s worth noting that not all LIV Golf members are seeking TRO to compete the FedEx Cup Playoffs, as a number of LIV Golfers resigned their tour memberships while others who would have qualified like Charles Howell III and Jason Kokrak are not attempting to play at the FedEx Cup opener in Memphis.