SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A California federal judge ruled Tuesday that three golfers who joined Saudi-backed LIV Golf will be ineligible for the PGA Tour playoffs.
U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman made her decision in San Jose after attorneys for the parties each spoke for about an hour. Freeman said she does not consider the golfers suffered irreparable harm because of the large amount of money guaranteed to them by joining LIV, a key issue in the case.
“There is simply no irreparable harm in this case,” said PGA Tour attorney Elliot Peters.
The three suspended golfers were asking for a temporary restraining order, which Freeman denied. Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford have claimed they should be able to play wherever they want, each saying in letters last month to the PGA Tour, “I am a free agent and an independent contractor.” They are among 10 players who filed an antitrust complaint against the PGA Tour last week, including Phil Mickelson.
Robert Walters, an antitrust litigator representing golfers, noted that it would be their opportunity on a big playoff stage, “effectively the Super Bowl of golf” because of its “significant earning opportunities.” Freeman replied that the earning potential of the LIV Tour was also significant and asked if players could have waited until the end of the PGA Tour season to leave for the new tour.
Walters argued that there were only 48 spots and that they would have been filled according to LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, to which Freeman said she agreed with that position, but that golfers would earn much more financially by joining LIV than the money they could have earned. the PGA circuit.
“It’s a hugely attractive financial opportunity, but it’s so much more than that,” Walters said, saying the harm is that “players lose intangible benefits” such as qualifying for major tournaments as well as games. other renowned invitations.
“It’s the holy grail because everyone wants to compete and win in the majors, but it’s not just the majors,” Walters said. He noted that the PGA Tour inferred that these golfers would put a “stain” or “stink” on the Tour’s image while playing, possibly even wearing LIV Tour gear in PGA Tour tournaments.
“We are disappointed that Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones are not allowed to play golf. Nobody wins by banning golfers from playing,” LIV Golf said in a statement.
The first of three FedEx Cup playoff events begins on Thursday. Two tournaments offer prize money of $15 million, and the player who wins the FedEx Cup at East Lake in Atlanta receives $18 million – hence the urgency for Freeman to reign. That case could go to trial next year, with the possibility of an injunction hearing in late September or early October, according to Peters.
Peters said lifting golfers’ suspensions and allowing them to play would “change the status quo” for the PGA Tour and “give them a fabulous platform” to promote the LIV tour while attending a PGA event.
“I think it’s a huge problem,” he said. “… The commissioner needs the ability to protect the Tour. It’s a very difficult situation for the Tour.
Gooch (#20), Jones (#65) and Swafford (#67) are among nine players to join LIV Golf and finish the regular season in the top 125 in the FedEx Cup standings. The other six who have joined LIV Golf are not asking to play in the tour playoffs.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan issued a note to members which included: “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 FedEx Cup qualifiers, capping off an incredibly thrilling season with the crowning of the FedEx Cup champion at the Tour Championship.
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