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August 10, 2022

Judge upholds ban on LIV players for PGA Tour playoffs

A trio of LIV golfers were seeking a temporary restraining order to compete in the lucrative FedEx Playoffs.

By Tariq Saleh

Three golfers from the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series have lost a court battle against the PGA Tour to compete in the upcoming FedEx Cup playoffs.

After being suspended by the tour following their defection to the controversial breakaway series, Australian Matt Jones and Americans Talor Gooch and Hudson Swafford sought a temporary restraining order that would have allowed them to participate at the first FedEx Cup play-off tournament in Memphis on Thursday (August 11).

The trio’s lawyers claimed the suspension was causing "irreparable" harm to the players.

However, US District Judge Beth Labson Freeman dismissed the claim and ruled in favor of the PGA Tour.

In her ruling, the judge stated that the players knew the potential consequences of joining the rival circuit and that the lucrative payments offered by LIV "are based upon players' calculations of what they were leaving behind."

In response to the ruling, LIV Golf said in a statement: “We’re disappointed that Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford, and Matt Jones won’t be allowed to play golf.  No one gains by banning golfers from playing.”

In a letter to players, Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, said: "With today's news, our players' fans and partners can now focus on what really matters over the next three weeks: the best players in the world competing in the FedExCup Playoffs."

Gooch, Swafford, and Jones are among 11 players contesting their PGA Tour ban having recently filed an anti-trust lawsuit.

The group also includes high-profile players such as Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Bryson DeChambeau, Abraham Ancer, Carlos Ortiz, Pat Perez, Jason Kokrak, and Peter Uihlein, who argue the PGA Tour is trying to hurt their careers.

On top of being suspended, the players have been fined £100,000 for competing in the first LIV Golf Invitational Series event in June after their requests for release by the PGA Tour were denied.

Unlike Gooch, Swafford, and Jones, Poulter was among three DP World Tour members who successfully gained a temporary stay of their suspensions to compete at the Scottish Open in July.

Earlier on Tuesday (August 9), world number one Scottie Scheffler hit out at the LIV players for suing the PGA Tour after choosing to join a rival circuit.

He said: "Those guys made their decision to go join another tour and they broke the rules and regulations of our tour, and now they're trying to sue us, which is definitely a bit frustrating.

"It's part of it now. Guys are going to leave. There's another tour going on and now they're suing us, so there's a lot going on."

Meanwhile, world number two Cameron Smith is reportedly set to become the latest high-profile player to join LIV Golf after being offered a deal worth over $100 million. He is expected to be joined by Australian compatriot Marc Leishman.

LIV Golf, which is backed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, represents a threat to existing golf series like the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour) due in large part to the unprecedented prize money it can offer.

As well as banning players who appear in LIV events, those two tours have strengthened their strategic alliance through a new 13-year operational joint venture partnership.

LIV Golf’s has staged three of its inaugural eight-event Invitational Series so far with tournaments in London, Portland, and New Jersey. Next year it plans to stage an expanded 14-tournament schedule and launch a new global league.

The circuit is offering over $25 million in prize money for each of its events.

The next LIV Invitational Series will be held in Boston from September 2 to 4, followed by Chicago, Bangkok (Thailand), Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), and the season-ending Team Championship in Miami.

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