Tiger Woods has been dragged into the messy fight between the Greg Norman-fronted LIV Golf series and the PGA Tour amid a pending court battle between the rival golf organisations.
Norman is spearheading LIV Golf's push to sign top PGA players to lucrative contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars in some cases, with the series heavily backed by a Saudi Arabian fund reportedly worth $3 billion.
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The series has worn allegations it is merely an attempt to 'sportswash' the image of Saudi Arabia and detract from accusations of human rights abuses.
Woods recently knocked back an offer reportedly worth $1 billion to join the LIV Series, a move which has partly resulted in the PGA Tour being accused of using the golf legend to influence other players.
Australian superstar Cameron Smith is the latest high-profile star rumoured to be signing with the breakaway series.
Eleven of LIV's recently signed golfers have filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour after they were banned from competing in PGA events.
Part of that lawsuit includes claims that the PGA recruited Woods to 'do its bidding and publicly criticise golfers' who were considering joining the rival series.
Last month Woods offered pointed criticism of the LIV series, suggesting those on long-term contracts with guaranteed money had no incentive to practice or improve.
He also said the 54-hole format was less of a challenge for young players and more acceptable for the Seniors Tour.
The likes of Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter and Bryson Dechambeau are part of the antitrust suit which alleges Woods' words were part of a deliberate ploy to undermine LIV.
“I disagree with those who have gone to LIV, I think they have turned their back on what allowed them to get to this position," Woods said in July.
"Some players have never had a chance to even experience playing on one of the tours.
“They have gone right from the amateur ranks to that organisation and never really had a chance to feel what it is like to play a schedule or play in big events.
“I don’t understand it. What these players are doing for guaranteed money, what is the incentive to practice? What is the incentive to go out there and earn it in the dirt?”
Tiger Woods drawn into ugly feud between LIV Golf and PGA Tour
The suit, filed in San Francisco's US District Court, alleges the PGA Tour has broken antitrust law by refusing to let them participate on both the tour and the new Saudi-backed circuit.
"As part of its carefully orchestrated plan to defeat competition, the Tour has threatened lifetime bans on players who play in even a single LIV Golf event," the golfers said in the complaint.
"The Tour's conduct serves no purpose other than to cause harm to players and foreclose the entry of the first meaningful competitive threat the Tour has faced in decades," the lawsuit states.
"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."
They asked the court to declare the punishments illegal and to award damages and legal fees.
However, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan delivered a stern and scathing response to the lawsuit.
"We have been preparing to protect our membership and contest this latest attempt to disrupt our Tour, and you should be confident in the legal merits of our position," said Monahan in a memo to PGA players.
"Fundamentally, these suspended players - who are now Saudi Golf League employees - have walked away from the Tour and now want back in.
"With the Saudi Golf League now on hiatus, they're trying to use lawyers to force their way into competition alongside our members in good standing.
"It's an attempt to use the Tour platform to promote themselves and freeride on your benefits and efforts. To allow re-entry into our events compromises the Tour and the competition, to the detriment of our organisation, our players, our partners and our fans.
"Let me be clear: we will continue to defend the members who abide by the regulations written by and for the players."
The PGA Tour has suspended members for playing in LIV Golf events without a release to play in tournaments the same week of a PGA Tour event.
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