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Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau among 11 LIV golfers to file antitrust lawsuit against PGA Tour

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Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and nine other golfers suspended by the PGA Tour for joining LIV Golf filed an antitrust complaint against the PGA Tour on Wednesday.

Additionally, three of those golfers are seeking a temporary restraining order from a federal judge that would allow them to play in the upcoming FedEx Cup playoffs.

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The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Northern California, sought relief that would allow Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones to play in all three FedEx Cup playoffs, starting with the championship. Next week’s FedEx St. Jude to Memphis. A hearing to consider the players’ motion for a temporary restraining order is scheduled for Tuesday in San Jose, Calif.

“The punishment that would accrue to these players if they were unable to participate in the FedEx Cup playoffs is substantial and irreparable,” the lawyers for the golfers wrote in the lawsuit, “and a temporary restraining order is necessary to avoid the irreparable harm that would ensue if they were unable to participate.”

Carlos Ortiz, Ian Poulter, Peter Uihlein, Jason Kokrak, Pat Perez and Abraham Ancer are the other plaintiffs identified in the antitrust lawsuit, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN on Wednesday.

Last month, two player managers confirmed to ESPN that the US Department of Justice had opened an investigation into the PGA Tour’s management of its players and whether it had engaged in anti-competitive behavior during its battle. in progress with LIV Golf.

“As part of its carefully orchestrated plan to defeat the competition, the Tour has threatened to ban players for life who participate in even a single LIV Golf event,” the lawsuit states. “He has supported these threats by imposing unprecedented suspensions on players (including the complainants) who threaten to cause irreparable harm to players and their ability to practice their profession. He has threatened sponsors, vendors and agents of coercing players into giving up opportunities to play in LIV Golf events, and he orchestrated a per se illegal group boycott with the European Tour to deny LIV Golf access to its members.

In a memo sent to PGA Tour players on Wednesday, Commissioner Jay Monahan wrote that the Tour “will continue to stand up for members who abide by the rules written by and for the players.”

“We prepare to protect our members and challenge this latest attempt to disrupt our tour, and you should be confident in the legal validity of our position,” Monahan wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN. . “Basically these suspended players – who are now Saudi Golf League employees – have walked away from the Tour and now want to come back. path in the competition alongside our members in good standing.

“This is an attempt to use the TOUR platform to promote ourselves and take advantage of your benefits and your efforts. Allowing reinstatement in our events compromises the Tour and the competition, to the detriment of our organization, our players, our partners and our fans. The lawsuit they filed somehow expects us to believe otherwise, which is why we intend to make our case clearly and vigorously.”

According to the lawsuit filed by members of LIV Golf, PGA Tour players who have played in the first three LIV Golf tournaments – a group that includes Mickelson, Gooch, Swafford, Jones, Uihlein and Poulter – face suspensions of nearly two years of the tour, until at least March 31, 2024.

The lawsuit said Mickelson, a six-time major champion, was originally suspended for two months by the PGA Tour on March 22 for, among other reasons, “attempting to recruit players for [LIV Golf]. An appeal committee upheld Mickelson’s suspension. His request for reinstatement about two months later was denied because he had played in the first LIV Golf event in London. At that time, he was extended He was extended for another when he played in Portland.

The lawsuit noted that DeChambeau, who was suspended by the PGA Tour until March 31, 2023, was “sent notice that he was sanctioning him for speaking to other Tour members about the positive experiences he had. with LIV Golf”.

The three players who filed a lawsuit to compete in the upcoming FedEx Cup Playoffs have been suspended from the PGA Tour after competing in LIV Golf events without posting a conflicting event. Gooch is ranked 20th in the FedEx Cup points standings, Swafford is 63rd and Jones is 91st. The top 125 players in points are eligible for the first event of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Among other things, the players’ lawyers argued in their motion that barring them from the FedEx Cup playoffs would prevent them from earning Official World Golf Ranking points that would earn them a bye to the big four championships. next season.

“The Tour’s conduct serves no purpose other than to cause harm to players and prevent the entry of the first significant competitive threat the Tour has faced in decades,” the lawsuit states. “Barring Complainants and other top professional golfers from its own events degrades the strength of the Tour’s terrain and diminishes the quality of the product it offers golf enthusiasts by depriving them of seeing many top golfers participate. to Tour events. The only conceivable benefit to Le Tour of degrading its own product in this way is the destruction of competition. Indeed, Le Tour has recognized its clearly anti-competitive purpose by attacking and injuring players.”

The FedEx St. Jude Championship and the BMW Championship, the second leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, each have purses of $11.5 million. The season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta has a purse of $75 million, including $17.5 million for the winner.

More than two dozen players, including former grand champions Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, DeChambeau and Sergio Garcia, have been suspended by the PGA Tour for playing LIV events. Johnson and Garcia are among the players who have resigned as members of the PGA Tour.

The lawsuit claims the PGA Tour pressured the championship’s top governing bodies to make its bid. He added that Augusta National Golf Club president Fred Ridley “threatened to uninvite Masters players if they joined LIV Golf”, that he “personally asked a number of 2022 Masters attendees to not play in the LIV Golf Invitational Series” and that Ridley refused to meet with LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman to understand the new tour’s business model.”

Several of the suspended players already have byes in at least some of the majors as former champions. For example, Mickelson has career exemptions at the Masters and the PGA Championship, a US Open exemption until 2026, and an exemption at The Open until he turns 60 (he is 52). DeChambeau, who won the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot, is exempt in that event until 2030 and at the Masters, The Open and PGA Championship until 2025.

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