Phil Mickelson and 10 other LIV Golf competitors filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour in federal court on Wednesday, a complaint that alleges their suspensions are part of a “carefully orchestrated plan to defeat” the Saudi-backed upstart tour.
Beyond the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones requested a temporary restraining order that — if granted — would allow them to compete in FedEx Cup Playoffs that begin next weekend in Memphis.
“The Tour’s unlawful strategy has been both harmful to the players and successful in threatening LIV Golf’s otherwise-promising launch,” William V. Roppolo, one of the players’ attorneys, wrote in the complaint.
In a letter to players obtained by Front Office Sports, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan wrote to players “should be confident in the legal merits” of the tour’s handling LIV Golf’s challenge.
“Fundamentally, these suspended players – who are now Saudi Golf League employees – have walked away from the TOUR and now want back in,” Monahan wrote. “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.
The Wall Street Journal was the first outlet to report the lawsuit.
The pressure applied by the PGA Tour resulted in LIV Golf “to cancel its 2022 business plan” to launch a full-fledged league and shift to an invitational series minus a TV deal and with fewer golfers.
That hasn’t stopped some of the biggest names in golf — including Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, and Dustin Johnson — from taking hundreds of millions of dollars to play for LIV Golf.
Outside Mickelson, the co-plaintiffs include Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford, Matt Jones, DeChambeau, Abraham Ancer, Carlos Ortiz, Ian Poulter, Pat Perez, Jason Kokrak, and Peter Uihlein.
The suit has been expected for months, with both sides privately predicting the dispute would end up in the courts.
The attention will turn again to golf’s four major tournaments: The Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship. LIV defectors still still in their golf primes like DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson might rue their decision to join the nascent golf tours if they’re banned from the four majors as well as team golf competitions like the Ryder Cup.
According to the lawsuit, the organizing bodies seem to be supporting their longtime friends and allies at the PGA Tour.