MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Rory McIlroy was paying attention to court proceedings Tuesday, when a federal judge in California denied a temporary restraining order to three suspended PGA Tour members who had signed with LIV Golf and then wanted to play in the playoffs of the FedExCup.
Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford will not participate in the FedEx St. Jude Championship, the first leg of the playoffs, when it kicks off at TPC Southwind on Thursday.
“From my perspective, common sense prevailed and I thought it was the right decision,” McIlroy said Wednesday. “Now that it’s happened, I think it allows us to focus on the essentials, which is golf. We can all move on and not have this side show for the next few days. weeks, which is good.”
Justin Thomas, who said he was looking for updates from the hearing on Twitter, also agreed with U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman’s decision.
Both McIlroy and Thomas said the ongoing dispute between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf became more personal when 11 players, including Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour in federal court last week. .
“It was personal to me from the start,” Thomas said. “It’s kind of like I said from the start. These guys had the opportunity to go play and just go play. You can have your cake, but you don’t have to eat it. too. And they got their fair share of a big, big amount of cake, and go eat it on your own. You don’t have to bring it on our tour.
McIlroy said he had more respect for players like former great champions Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, who defected to LIV Golf but did not continue the tour or try to return to play.
“Guys are going to make their own decisions based on what they think is best for them, and that’s fine,” McIlroy said. “Again, I’m not blaming anyone for going to play LIV or taking guaranteed money. If that’s your prerogative and what you want to do, fine. I think where the resentment comes from , of the members of this tour, is the fact that they want to try to come back here without consequences, and anyone who has read the PGA Tour handbook or followed the rules and regulations, that would seem very unfair to them.”
Thomas, who won the PGA Championship at Southern Hills in May and is eighth in the FedEx Cup points standings, said the drama between tours has been a distraction.
“It unfortunately just invades the world of golf a little bit and takes away some big storylines,” Thomas said. “I think I saw Scottie [Scheffler] came and did his interview [Tuesday]and I’m sure he was asked what was going on, and he had one of the best seasons ever.
“I mean the most money that’s ever been made and winning the FedEx Cup by a mile, I’m sure there weren’t as many questions about it as there should have been. “It’s little things like that where it takes away from the big picture of what’s going on on the PGA Tour, obviously in the game of golf as a whole that’s going on.”
The drama might not go away anytime soon. Although Freeman denied the temporary restraining order, she did not rule on the LIV players’ antitrust allegations. She has scheduled a jury trial in U.S. District Court in San Jose, California for September 2023. There will be discovery on both sides and plenty of depositions by then.
There will also likely be more PGA Tour members heading out for lucrative signing bonuses and bigger purses on the LIV Golf Tour. Cameron Smith, the world’s No. 2 ranked player who won the Open Championship at St. Andrews last month, is the latest player reportedly linked to the league’s funding from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.
McIlroy knows Tuesday’s verdict was a small win for the PGA Tour in a much bigger battle.
“It feels like there’s such a long way to go,” McIlroy said. “It’s like you birdied the first hole, but you still have 17 holes to go.”