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Phil Mickelson and 10 other LIV golfers to sue PGA Tour for ‘illegal monopoly’

(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Group which also includes Bryson DeChambeau seeking injuction prohibiting ‘anticompetitive conduct’

Phil Mickelson and 10 other professional golfers who joined the Saudi Arabia-financed LIV Tour have sued the PGA Tour claiming it is an illegal monopoly that is harming their careers by suspending them.

The group of LIV golfers, which also includes Bryson DeChambeau and Ian Poulter, are seeking an injunction prohibiting what they call the PGA Tour’s anticompetitive conduct in an antitrust lawsuit filed Wednesday in San Francisco federal court.

The group includes three players—Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones —who are seeking a temporary restraining order that would allow them to play in the Tour’s Fed-Ex Cup Playoffs, which begin next week. Each had qualified for the playoffs before signing on to play for LIV, before being told by the PGA Tour they were being excluded from the event because of their participation in the LIV series.

In their motion for a temporary restraining order, Gooch, Swafford and Jones say they appealed to the PGA Tour to be allowed to play in the playoffs, and that under Tour rules they should be allowed to play in the playoffs while their appeals are heard, a report in the Wall Street Journal says. It adds that the Tour violated its own disciplinary process when it told the players this week they wouldn’t be permitted to play while the appeals are pending.

“The purpose of this action is to strike down the PGA Tour’s anticompetitive rules and practices that prevent these independent-contractor golfers from playing when and where they choose,” that motion says.

LIV Golf has been wrestling with mixed publicity since two-time major champion Greg Norman announced the project in March, a deep-pocketed format that seeks to upend some of the long-standing traditions of pro golf. The series marked its debut in the eastern US last week with a much-hyped appearance at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, New Jersey.

PGA Tour golfer Davis Love III. Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty

Meanwhile, PGA Tour players could take the “nuclear option” of boycotting events if LIV rebels successfully challenge their suspensions, according to former Ryder Cup captain Davis Love.

Love believes those who have remained loyal to the PGA Tour are “fed up” with the Saudi-backed breakaway, which will expand to a 14-event league next year.

DP World Tour members who played in the inaugural LIV Golf event were fined £100,000 and banned from the Scottish Open, but won a court battle to get the punishments temporarily stayed, pending determination of a full appeal.

And Love thinks a similar legal challenge from players indefinitely suspended from the PGA Tour could spark a dramatic reaction.

“If the LIV guys sue and are allowed to play on the PGA Tour, the players are enough fed up with it,” Love said in a press conference ahead of the Wyndham Championship.

“We understand that we make the rules on the PGA Tour and the commissioner is enforcing our rules and we don’t want those guys playing, coming and cherry-picking our tournaments.

“We hold all the cards. We say to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and to Washington, ‘No, we support the rules. We don’t want those guys playing. We don’t care what the courts say’.

“The nuclear option is to say ‘Fine, if they have to play in our events we just won’t play’.”

Source : The Irish Times