As controversy surrounds the Saudi-backed LIV Golf events, some of the world’s best golfers are pushing back against the PGA Tour’s suspension of them for joining the LIV tour.
In response to the suspensions, 11 golfers — including Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau — filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour on Wednesday to challenge their bans, the Wall Street Journal reported.
LIV Golf has gained attention because it is sponsored by Saudi Arabia, prominent golfers have joined the circuit, and former President Donald Trump is involved because an event has been held at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey, The New York Times reported.
“Critics consider LIV to be a tool of the Saudi government, accusing it of seeking to distract attention from Riyadh’s human rights record and potential links to 9/11 plotters,” NBC said.
LIV also offers immense prizes for players.
The purse for each LIV Golf Invitational Series tournament is $25 million; $5 million goes to teams while $20 million goes to individual players, The Sporting News reported.
In comparison, two PGA major tournaments — the Masters and the PGA Championship — each had purses of $15 million in 2022.
Top players on the LIV tour have signed guaranteed nine-figure contracts, according to the Times. One of those players, Brooks Koepka, reportedly received over $100 million to join the tour.
And Greg Norman, LIV’s CEO, recently said on the Fox News Channel that icon Tiger Woods rejected at least $700 million to play on the circuit.
With so much money available, some golfers have been fine with giving up the PGA.
Some LIV golfers, including Dustin Johnson, have resigned their PGA Tour memberships, the Journal reported. According to PGA bylaws, members are barred from appearing in non-PGA tournaments without permission from the commissioner under most circumstances.
Thus, the PGA Tour is unhappy about the participation on the eight-tournament LIV tour and suspended the players who appeared at the inaugural event near London in June, NBC reported. (The next event will be Sept. 2-4 in Boston.)
Now, even in the face of lawsuit from 11 golfers, the PGA Tour said its rules are legal and appropriate, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Jay Monahan, the PGA commissioner, defended the suspensions.
“Fundamentally, these suspended players – who are now Saudi Golf League employees – have walked away from the Tour and now want back in,” Monahan wrote in a memo, according to the Journal. “With the Saudi Golf League on hiatus, they’re trying to use lawyers to force their way into competition alongside our members in good standing.”
But the antitrust lawsuit filed against the PGA is taking a punch at what it calls “anti-competitive” rules.
“The purpose of this action is to strike down the PGA Tour’s anti-competitive rules and practices that prevent these independent-contractor golfers from playing when and where they choose,” the suit states.
The lawsuit also accuses the PGA of using its monopolization to crush the LIV tour by punishing all players who joined it, NBC reported.
In addition to this lawsuit, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the PGA, the Wall Street Journal reported last month.
The DOJ is looking into whether the PGA Tour has engaged in anti-competitive actions.
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