Phil Mickelson and 10 other LIV golfers file antitrust lawsuit against PGA Tour

Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones, who are three of the 11 golfers named in the lawsuit, are seeking an injunction that would allow them to play in the tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs, which are scheduled to begin next week.

“The Tour has dared to damage the careers and livelihoods of all golfers … who have the audacity to defy the Tour and enter tournaments sponsored by the new entrant. The tour has done so in a deliberate and relentless attempt to crush burgeoning competition before it threatens the tour’s monopoly,” the complaint said.

Plaintiffs also include Bryson DeChambeau, Abraham Ancer, Carlos Ortiz, Ian Poulter, Pat Perez, Jason Kokrak and Peter Uihlein.

The lawsuit says the PGA Tour threatened to impose lifetime bans on players who compete in the LIV golf series, adding that the “unprecedented bans” were imposed on them. The lawsuit also alleges that the PGA Tour threatened sponsors, vendors and agents to force players to give up access to LIV golf events for their members.

In addition, the complaint said the Tour relied on other entities in the “so-called golf ecosystem,” including certain entities that put golf’s “majors” to do their bidding to manage the threats and damage to everyone golfer who defies the monopolistic demands of the Tour and plays at LIV golf events.”

“Players rightfully brought this lawsuit to challenge the PGA’s anti-competitive rules and defend their rights as independent contractors to play where and when they choose,” LIV Golf said in a statement to CNN. “Despite the PGA Tour’s efforts to stifle competition, we believe golfers should be allowed to play golf.”

In response to the lawsuit, Monahan sent players on the PGA Tour a memo Wednesday, saying the golfers who left the Tour now “want to get back in” and vowing that the Tour would “clearly and vigorously” do their thing case will be represented.

“It is an attempt to use the TOUR platform to promote yourself and reap your benefits and efforts,” Monahan wrote in the memo obtained by CNN. “Allowing re-entry into our events puts the TOUR and the competition at risk to the detriment of our organization, our players, our partners and our fans.”

Monahan continued, “This is your TOUR, built on the foundation that we will work together for the good and growth of the organization… and then you will reap the rewards. It seems that your former colleagues have forgotten an important aspect of this equation.”

The lawsuit states that the plaintiffs have “dedicated the majority of their professional careers to the growth of the PGA Tour.” The complaint also said the tour has done nothing other than “recently repaid them with suspensions, penalties, threats and disparagement for merely playing professional golf for another promoter and accepting competition for their services.”

The lawsuit alleges that the Tour “denied them an opportunity to earn money, attacked their goodwill and reputation, interfered with their businesses, attacked their business partners, threatened them with outrageous punishment – including threatening them with the ban of them participating in golf’s marquee events to refuse, even if they’ve earned placements or exceptions for entering those tournaments — and unlawfully prevented them from exercising their rights as independent contractors, and the tour has repeatedly admitted at every step that it did so to to destroy the emerging competition.

The US Department of Justice announced in July that it was investigating the PGA Tour over possible antitrust violations related to LIV Golf.
Swedish golfer Henrik Stenson is being stripped of the Ryder Cup Europe captaincy, according to reports from LIV Golf

“It wasn’t unexpected,” a PGA Tour spokesman said in a statement at the time. “We went through this in 1994 and we are confident that a similar result will be achieved.”

The Justice Department declined to comment on Wednesday.

In June, Monahan pointed out that LIV poses a serious threat to the success of the PGA Tour.

“If this is an arms race and the only weapons here are dollar bills, the PGA Tour can’t compete,” he said. “The PGA Tour, an American institution, cannot compete with a foreign monarchy that spends billions of dollars to buy the game of golf.

“We welcome good, healthy competition. The LIV Saudi Golf League is not. She is an irrational threat; one that doesn’t care about profitability or the game’s true growth.”

According to the PGA Tour, every golfer who has joined LIV Golf has been denied tournament eligibility since early June.

The LIV Golf series is backed by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia – a sovereign wealth fund chaired by Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and the man credited in a US intelligence report as responsible for the permit of the operation carried out is called the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Bin Salman has denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s murder.
The tour consists of eight events around the world. The first took place in London in June. The last took place over the weekend at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated which golfers in the lawsuit qualified for this year’s FedEx Cup Playoffs. Not all players qualified.