A group of 11 players from the Saudi-backed LIV Golf have filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour to challenge their suspension from the series.
The group 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.
The suit includes three players – Taylor Gooch, Hudson Swafford, and Matt Jones – who are also seeking a temporary restraining order to allow them to compete in the FedEx Cup playoffs, which start next week (August 19).
Poulter is one of three DP World Tour members who successfully gained a temporary stay of their suspensions from the Scottish Open in July, pending the determination of their appeals.
The complaint and restraining order application have been filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California yesterday (August 3).
The lawsuit states: “The Tour’s conduct serves no purpose other than to cause harm to players and foreclose the entry of the first meaningful competitive threat the tour has faced in decades.
“The purpose of this action is to strike down the PGA Tour’s anticompetitive rules and practices that prevent these independent-contractor golfers from playing when and where they choose.”
The group said it is seeking a stay on current PGA Tour suspensions and sanctions, a permanent ban on the PGA Tour punishing those who either consider joining or join LIV Golf, a ban on the PGA Tour cooperating on punishments with the DP World Tour, or golf majors against those associating with LIV Golf and prevent the PGA Tour from amending its rule to keep eligible players from competing in its events.
It is also seeking “monetary damages, treble damages, and economic damages” due to the PGA Tour denying them income-earning opportunities, attacking their business partners, threatening them with egregious punishments, and unlawfully preventing them from exercising their independent contractor rights.
The suit is the latest escalation between the two golf entities since LIV Golf’s launch earlier this year.
LIV Golf 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.
Those two tours have banned players who appear in LIV events and have strengthened their strategic alliance through a new 13-year operational joint venture partnership.
In a memo to PGA Tour members responding to the lawsuit, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said: “It’s an attempt to use the tour platform to promote themselves and to freeride off your benefits and efforts. To allow re-entry into our events compromises the tour and the competition.
“The lawsuit they have filed somehow expects us to believe the opposite, which is why we intend to make our case clearly and vigorously.”
LIV Golf, meanwhile, supported the legal action, stating: “The players have the right to have brought this action to challenge the PGA’s anti-competitive rules and to vindicate their rights as independent contractors to play where and when they choose.
“Despite the PGA Tour’s efforts to stifle competition, we think golfers should be allowed to play golf.”
The suit also revealed new information about Mickelson’s tense relationship with the PGA Tour. The filing said Mickelson was suspended by the tour in March for recruiting players to join LIV.
The suit is the first in a series of legal activities between the tours, with LIV reportedly readying its antitrust suit against the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour is also facing an inquiry by the US Department of Justice over accusations of participating in monopolistic business practices.
LIV Golf’s inaugural eight-event Invitational Series is currently underway and has staged three tournaments so far. Next year it plans to stage an expanded 14-tournament schedule and launch a new global league.