Aug 3, 2022 - Sports

Phil Mickelson and 10 LIV golfers file antitrust lawsuit against PGA Tour

Team Captain Phil Mickelson of Hy Flyers GC plays a shot on the practice range during day one of the LIV Golf.
Phil Mickelson plays a shot on the practice range during day one of the LIV Golf. Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/LIV Golf via Getty Images

Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and nine other golfers from the LIV Golf circuit filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour on Wednesday that challenges the golfers' suspensions.

The big picture: This is the beginning of a legal battle between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour, two rival circuits, which could redefine professional golf in the years to come. The Justice Department has already opened an investigation into the PGA over antitrust violations.

Catch up quick: The PGA Tour has previously suspended golfers who have chosen to participate in LIV Golf since the tour does not allow player releases for tournaments held in North America, the Wall Street Journal reports.

  • Many LIV golfers, including Dustin Johnson, resigned from the PGA Tour because of the suspensions.

Details: The golfers claim in the new lawsuit that the PGA Tour is limiting competition.

  • 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 golfers assert.
  • "The only conceivable benefit to the Tour from degrading its own product in this manner is the destruction of competition," the golfers said.

Zoom in: The lawsuit also includes three players — Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones — who are hoping to receive a temporary restraining order that would allow them to compete in the upcoming PGA Tour's FedEx Cup Playoffs.

  • The three players qualified for the playoffs before they signed with LIV Golf, per WSJ. But the PGA Tour said they would be excluded due to their connections to LIV.
  • Mickelson was suspended by the PGA Tour for recruiting players to LIV Golf, according to the lawsuit. The tour said he is forbidden from applying for reinstatement until March 2024 because he played in his second LIV Golf event.

The other side: The PGA Tour said the suspended players walked away from the PGA Tour and "now want back in," according to a memo to players written by PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and shared with Axios.

  • These players are "trying to use lawyers to force their way into competition alongside our members in good standing," Monahan wrote.
  • "It's an attempt to use the Tour platform to promote themselves and to freeride on your benefits and efforts," Monahan wrote. "To allow reentry into our events compromises the TOUR and the competition, to the detriment of our organization, our players, our partners and our fans."
  • "This is your Tour," Monahan wrote to the players, "built on the foundation that we work together for the good and growth of the organization … and then you reap the rewards. It seems your former colleagues have forgotten one important aspect of that equation."

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