The PGA Tour has asked a federal judge in San Francisco to dismiss the appeal of three suspended players who joined Saudi-backed LIV Golf and now want to compete in the tour’s lucrative playoffs, arguing that the players knew the consequences two months ago.
Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford are asking for a temporary restraining order. They are among 10 players who filed an antitrust complaint against the PGA Tour last week.
The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday at 1 p.m. PDT in San Jose, Calif., two days before the first of three FedEx Cup playoff events in the race for the $18 million top prize.
The FedEx St. Jude Championship in Memphis, Tennessee has a $15 million purse, and the top 70 players advance to the second postseason event in Wilmington, Delaware.
Gooch (#20), Jones (#65) and Swafford (#67) are among nine players to join LIV Golf and finish the regular season in the top 125 in the FedEx Cup standings. The other six who have joined LIV Golf are not asking to play in the tour playoffs.
In a court filing on Monday opposing the temporary restraining order, the tour argued that antitrust laws do not allow the three players “to have their cake and eat it too.”
Gooch, Swafford and Jones used the same phrase in separate, legally burdensome letters to tour officials last month protesting their suspensions and claiming the regulations were onerous and prevented them from performing elsewhere.
“I am a free agent and an independent contractor. The Tour cannot have their cake and eat it too while trying to control me as an employee, while not giving me the rights and benefits that an employee would receive,” each letter read.
The PGA Tour argued in its opposing motion: “Despite knowing full well that they would violate TOUR regulations and be suspended for it, the plaintiffs joined rival golf league LIV Golf, which paid them tens and hundreds of millions of dollars in guaranteed money. provided by the sovereign wealth fund of saudi arabia.
LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman said in a statement: “I believe players have the right to play when and where they want so their talents can take them as far and high as possible.”
“I believe all players – whether they choose to play with LIV or the PGA Tour – understand and appreciate the purpose and importance of player legal action, across the world,” Norman said. “The PGA Tour tries to portray this as ‘us’ versus ‘them’. Players know best.
All three players were not among the most wanted players for Norman’s league rivals, although they were among the initial group of players who signed with LIV Golf. Gooch was the only top 50 in the world, mostly since his lone PGA Tour victory last November.
“Plaintiffs have waited nearly two months to seek relief from the Court, the fabrication of an ’emergency’ which they now maintain requires immediate action,” the filing reads. “This is not the case.”
The tour argues the players knew they wouldn’t be eligible for the FedEx Cup playoffs “when they accepted millions in LIV to break their deals” with the tour.
Players were not suspended until they actually teeed off at a LIV Golf event.
LIV Golf events, with a 48-player course, consist of 54 holes and offer a total prize pool of $25 million for each event. Seventeen players have already earned $1 million or more in three or fewer events. Five more events remain on this year’s schedule, and LIV Golf has already announced a 14-tournament schedule for 2023.
The next LIV event won’t begin until after the PGA Tour season wraps up at East Lake in Atlanta with the FedEx Cup paying out $18 million to the champion.
Even though LIV Golf players have been suspended, they remain eligible for the FedEx Cup bonus package. Anyone who finishes in the top 125 receives $120,000. Those who finish in the top 150, such as Pat Perez and Paul Casey, would receive $85,000.
Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia are among the LIV Golf players who have elected to resign from their PGA Tour memberships. Reed is competing in two Asian Tour-International Series tournaments this month.
The lawsuit was filed on August 3 by 11 players. Carlos Ortiz’s manager told The Associated Press that Ortiz is no longer part of the lawsuit, although that has not yet been reflected in court documents.
“Carlos doesn’t want to get involved in legal battles,” his manager, Carlos Rodriguez, said in a text message. “He is grateful for the opportunity he has had to play on the PGA Tour and the Korn Ferry Tour for the past few years.”
Ortiz in two LIV events has earned nearly $3.5 million, or about 44% of his career earnings on the 160-tournament PGA Tour.
The Memphis field is currently down to 122 players of the 125 who are eligible and in good standing. Three players chose not to compete due to injury or schedule.
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