Phil Mickelson's brutal move against PGA Tour amid LIV Golf furore

·5-min read
Pictured here, Phil Mickelson looks on during the 2022 British Open.
Phil Mickelson is one of 11 LIV Golf stars taking the PGA Tour to court in the latest dispute between the rival tours. Pic: Getty

Six-time major winner Phil Mickelson is one of 11 golfers taking the PGA Tour to court over its controversial decision to ban players who've signed up to play in the LIV Golf series.

The suit alleges the US PGA has broken antitrust law by refusing to allow the players to participate in both the main tour and Greg Norman's Saudi-backed rebel competition.

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The lawsuit, filed in federal court in California, challenges the indefinite suspensions imposed by PGA commissioner Jay Monahan upon those who played in any of the Saudi-backed upstart tour's first three events.

Australian Matt Jones, Talor Gooch and Hudson Swafford are also seeking a temporary restraining order to allow them to compete in the FedEx Cup play-offs, which get under way next week.

Both actions were filed in the United States on Wednesday, increasing the tensions between the rival tours.

Led by Mickelson, the suit also includes Bryson DeChambeau, Ian Poulter, Abraham Ancer, Carlos Ortiz, Pat Perez, Jason Kokrak and Peter Uihlein, who claim they were punished for playing in LIV tournaments.

"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.

Six players who have competed in LIV Golf events are among the top 125 in the FedEx Cup standings and would be eligible for the start of the PGA Tour's post-season that starts next week.

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.

Seen here, Australia's Matt Jones looks on during a PGA Tour tournament.
Australia's Matt Jones is one of the players seeking a temporary restraining order to play in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs. Pic: Getty

The lawsuit begins a legal showdown between the rebel series and the established PGA Tour and whether the golfers are free agents or as tour members are subject to rules and punishments of the PGA Tour.

With LIV Golf events offering record US$25 million purses and players offered massive signing bonuses, several of the world's top players have joined the circuit despite criticism over Saudi human rights abuses.

"As the tour's monopoly power has grown, it has employed its dominance to craft anti-competitive restraints to protect its long-standing monopoly," the lawsuit claimed.

"Threatened by the entry of LIV Golf and diametrically opposed to its founding mission, the tour has ventured to harm the careers and livelihoods of any golfers... who have the temerity to defy the tour and play in tournaments sponsored by the new entrant.

"The tour has done so in an intentional and relentless effort to crush nascent competition before it threatens the tour's monopoly."

Players' lawsuit backed by LIV Golf

LIV Golf backed the lawsuit in a statement to The Golf Channel.

"The players are right to have brought this action to challenge the PGA Tour's anti-competitive rules and to vindicate their rights as independent contractors to play where and when they choose," the LIV Golf Series statement said.

"Despite the PGA Tour's efforts to stifle competition, we think golfers should be allowed to play golf."

The move came on the eve of the PGA's Wyndham Championship at Greensboro, North Carolina, and sparked emotional reactions.

"It just feels like a quick cash grab for those guys," said American J.T. Poston. "The money that's being used to fight those lawsuits are coming out of our pockets."

As for LIV Golf players possibly in the PGA playoffs, Poston added, "I don't know if there will be hostility but I know there are some bridges that have been broken. Some guys will not appreciate that."

US 2023 Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson called the lawsuit "extremely unfortunate," adding, "it's sad it has come to this. You should pick one and that's the route you should have to go."

"You can't have it both ways," said American Will Zalatoris. "We've been grinding all year and they are doing something detrimental.

"I think a lot of guys would be pretty frustrated if they are allowed to do both. Deep down all of us share the same feelings."

"It's frustrating," said American Billy Horschel. "They made a decision to leave the PGA Tour. They should follow their employer. A lot of guys are not very happy."

with agencies

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