Watersports

LIV joins PGA Tour lawsuit as 4 players drop out

Saudi-funded LIV Golf has joined the antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour in an amended complaint in which four players withdrew their names.

That leaves seven players, including Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, as well as LIV Golf as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The four who have their names removed are Carlos Ortiz, Abraham Ancer, Pat Perez and Jason Kokrak.

The amended complaint was filed Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Northern California. Three players still on trial – Matt Jones, Talor Gooch and Hudson Swafford – previously requested temporary restraining orders to play in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

The judge denied their request two weeks ago.

The lawsuit claims the PGA Tour used monopoly power to try to crush competition and unjustly suspended players.

Greg Norman, CEO of LIV Golf, said the league would fully support the players in any legal action they pursue. LIV Golf, backed by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, is now directly involved.

In the Amended Complaint, LIV Golf argues that without a favorable ruling, its “ability to maintain a meaningful competitive presence in the markets will be destroyed.”

LIV Golf alleges that PGA Tour restrictions have forced it to increase its costs to recruit players and prevented it from recruiting others who fear punishment. He also claims the tour has forced LIV Golf to delay its launch to 2022 and have a smaller first-year schedule.

LIV Golf has offered several big names signing fees worth $150 million or more, in addition to the $25 million in prize money at each event. LIV Golf has held three tournaments so far. The fourth is next weekend outside of Boston.

The amended complaint states that while LIV Golf has launched its tour despite “super-competitive costs” and reduced access to players, “dealing with headwinds of this nature is unsustainable.”

The PGA Tour relied on its right that its members need a conflicting event release to play overseas, and no release is granted for North American events. Five such LIV events are scheduled this year.

The Tour has suspended players who finish in LIV Golf without a release — none have been granted — and most of those suspensions are through March 2024.

U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman ruled in denying the temporary restraining order that LIV Golf did not show irreparable harm due to the money the players earned for signing and prize money, and that the PGA Tour regulations for suspending players in this case were not unreasonable.

Freeman has set a summary judgment hearing for July 23, 2023 and an interim trial date for January 8, 2024.

LIV Golf has already signed about 20 PGA Tour players and is expected to add up to six more after the PGA Tour season wraps up Sunday in Atlanta at the Tour Championship.

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