Federal judge in San Jose denies bid by 3 LIV golfers to play in PGA Tour playoffs

by Jenny McCauley | ap sports writer

SAN JOSE – A federal judge in California ruled on Tuesday that three golfers who joined Saudi-backed LIV Golf would not be able to compete in the PGA Tour’s post season.

US District Judge Beth Labson Freeman made her decision in San Jose after lawyers for both sides spoke for nearly an hour. Freeman said he did not think golfers suffered irreparable harm because of the big money guaranteed to be included in the LIV, a major issue in the case.

“There is no irreparable damage in this case,” said PGA Tour attorney Elliot Peters.

Three suspended golfers were seeking a temporary restraining order, which Freeman denied. Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford claimed they should be able to play wherever they wanted, each saying in letters to the PGA Tour last month, “I am a free agent and independent contractor.” He is among 10 players who filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour last week, including Phil Mickelson.

Robert Walters, an antitrust litigant representing the golfers, said it would be “effectively the Super Bowl of golf” their opportunity on a big playoff stage because of “significant income opportunities”. Freeman replied that the earning potential of the LIV Tour was also great and asked if players could wait until the conclusion of the PGA Tour season to depart for a new tour.

Walters argued that there were only 48 spots and they would have been filled according to Greg Norman, CEO of LIV Golf, to which Freeman stated that he agreed with that stance, but that golfers had to spend more financially in LIV than the money they earned. stood to attend. PGA Tour.

“It’s an extraordinarily lucrative financial opportunity, but it’s much more than that,” Walters said, with the disadvantage that “players lose intangible benefits” such as qualifying for major tournaments as well as other marquee invitations.

“It’s the holy grail because everyone wants to compete and win major championships, but it’s just not big,” Walters said. He noted that the PGA Tour anticipated that playing these golfers would put a “stigma” or “stink” on the Tour’s image, perhaps even wearing LIV Tour gear to PGA Tour tournaments.

“We are disappointed that Talor Gooch, Hudson Swayford and Matt Jones will not be allowed to play golf. Banning golfers doesn’t help anyone.”

The first of three FedEx Cup playoff events begins on Thursday. The two tournaments offer prize money of $15 million, and the player who wins the FedEx Cup at East Lake in Atlanta receives $18 million—thus the urgency for Freeman to rule. According to Peters, the case could go up for hearing next year, with the possibility of an injunction hearing in late September or early October.

Peters said that removing golfers’ suspensions and allowing them to play would “change the status quo” for the PGA Tour and “give them a great platform” to promote the LIV Tour while competing in PGA events.

“I think it’s a big problem,” he said. “… the commissioner needs the ability to defend the Tour. This is a very dire situation for the Tour.”

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