The battle between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour reached its first in what will surely be many courtrooms.
U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman heard arguments from attorneys representing both the PGA Tour and a consortium of eleven players affiliated with LIV on Tuesday afternoon. Three LIV players – Taylor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones – were seeking a temporary restraining order allowing them to compete in this week’s tournament, the first event in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
However, after a two-hour hearing, Judge Freeman ruled that players had not demonstrated that they would suffer “irreparable harm” if they were not allowed to play. She also noted that players were well aware of the potential consequences of joining the LIV when they did so earlier this summer, and that they earned a significant amount of wallet revenue as a result of their decision to play on the LIV Tour. Accordingly, the LIV players will not be on the field this week or the rest of the PGA Tour playoffs.
The temporary restraining order for players was only one part of Much bigger lawsuit that LIV players led by Phil Mickelson had filed against the tour for antitrust reasons. This lawsuit alleges that the PGA Tour engaged in anti-competitive behavior and forced other entities in the golf world—the Big Four, various vendors, and courses—to avoid the LIV and its players. The round has answered They protect the interests of their members – the players – by keeping walls high against players from competing rounds who seek, in the words of the repeated round, to “eat their cake and eat it too”.
While Tuesday’s hearing focused primarily on the narrow issue of the three players’ eligibility to play in the Tour’s playoffs – an event for which they had already qualified before leaving for the LIV – the LIV players’ and Tour’s attorneys reviewed the arguments that will take effect in the coming months.
Judge Freeman seemed to object to the breadth of PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan’s ability to suspend and control the fate of players on the tour. On the other hand, it has raised serious doubts about the level of antitrust abuse at work here, given how successful LIV has been in attracting and retaining some of the biggest names in the sport. Five of the Tour’s 10 most popular players, according to Private Tour metrics, have now joined LIV.
Some important discoveries also emerged during the hearing, the most important of which has to do with the way at least some of the LIV players are being paid. According to private players’ attorneys, at least some LIV players’ winnings are deducted from their upfront payment – which, in effect, acts as a down payment rather than a separate physical payment. So under this arrangement, a player who hypothetically earned $10 million to play with a LIV would need to earn $10 million in tournament wallets before earning additional money in the LIV round. This is a big, big difference from how PGA Tour players are paid.
Starting Thursday the FedEx St. Jude Classic, the first of the FedEx Cup Tri-Event Qualifiers. The next LIV Golf event is scheduled for early September in Boston.
This is an evolving story and will be updated.
Connect with Jay Busbee at [email protected] or on Twitter at jaybusbee.