ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – The US Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the PGA Tour’s handling of its players and whether it engaged in anti-competitive behavior during its ongoing battle with the LIV Golf Invitational series, a new circuit funded by the Saudi public. Investment fund.
The investigation, according to player agents who have been contacted by DOJ officials, focuses on the PGA Tour’s actions regarding the Official World Golf Rankings, the warnings it issued to players considering joining LIV Golf and the suspensions that have been imposed on players who left by PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan.
A PGA Tour spokesperson confirmed the DOJ investigation to ESPN. The Wall Street Journal first reported details of the investigation on Monday.
“It was not unexpected,” the PGA Tour statement said. “We went through that in 1994 and are confident of a similar outcome.”
A player’s agent told ESPN on Monday that he was first contacted by DOJ officials about three weeks ago. His client had left the PGA Tour to join LIV Golf. The agent did not want his or the player’s identity to be revealed due to the sensitive nature of the investigation.
“They launched an investigation into the PGA Tour and wanted to know if [my client] would be willing to participate in a confidential and voluntary interview,” the agent said. “They wanted to ask him about his interactions with the PGA Tour during the evolution of LIV Golf.”
The agent added that DOJ attorneys were “kind of like a dog with a bone. They’re on it. I expect them to dig as deep as possible because they’re all over it. . I could tell.”
Monahan has indefinitely suspended more than 20 players who competed in LIV Golf’s first two events in London and Portland, Oregon, without being granted conflicting event releases. Among them are former great champions Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson.
Some of the players were lured into LIV Golf by signing bonuses of over $100 million and purses of $25 million for each event.
Some players, including former Masters champions Patrick Reed and Garcia, have resigned from the PGA Tour.
One of the issues being closely scrutinized by the DOJ, according to another agent, is whether the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and governing bodies of the majors are conspiring not to award players Official World Golf Ranking points. LIV. The 48 players who participated in the first two LIV events did not earn World Ranking Points.
Three players, including longtime PGA Tour member Ian Poulter, have been granted a stay by a UK court to compete in last week’s Scottish Open. They had been banned from playing in the event, which is co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour.
In 1994, the Federal Trade Commission investigated whether the PGA Tour violated federal laws by requiring its members to obtain permission from the commissioner to attend outdoor events and appear on other televised golf programs. The FTC terminated this investigation without penalizing the PGA Tour.
LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, a two-time Open champion, argued that professional golfers are independent contractors and should be allowed to play wherever they want.
“Surely you’re kidding,” Norman wrote in a letter to Monahan in February. “And surely your PGA Tour lawyers must be holding their breath. As has been widely reported, you have threatened PGA Tour players, who are all independent contractors, with lifetime bans if they decide to play golf. in a league sponsored by anyone other than the Tour.
“But when you try to bluff and intimidate players by intimidating and threatening them, you are guilty of going too far, of being unfair, and you are probably in violation of federal law.”