The PGA Tour is being sued for antitrust violations by a group of 11 LIV Golf League players, Phil Mickelson amongst them, who want to play on the Tour once more, possibly very soon. A favorable decision would still make a number of golfers eligible to compete in the FedEx Cup Playoffs that will take place next week.
Many of its golfers would qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs despite not competing in PGA Tour events for two months after leaving the PGA Tour for LIV Golf in June, but the PGA Tour suspended them and boxed them out of the competition.
But, according to the Wall Street Journal, Mickelson’s suspension goes much further than that. The Tour reportedly suspended him in March following his incendiary remarks in February about Saudi Arabia and the LIV Golf League.
The lawsuit also sheds new light on Mickelson’s status on the Tour, which had been the subject of considerable mystery since he stopped competing following the publication of contentious remarks about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record earlier this year.
According to the lawsuit, Mickelson was suspended from the PGA Tour in March for allegedly recruiting players to compete for LIV and his appeal was rejected.
The Tour allegedly rejected his request for reinstatement in June based on his participation in the first LIV event that month outside of London. It stated that he couldn’t submit an application for reinstatement before March 2023; this restriction was then extended until March 2024 after he participated in the second LIV event.
Why was Mickelson and other suspended?
The PGA Tour has consistently permitted players to play on other tours with a waiver and typically allows up to three waivers for players to play on other tours. Golf Channel noted that the language in its bylaws may have been the reason why it didn’t for the first LIV event.
Players who “such a release would cause [the Tour] to be in violation of a contractual commitment to a tournament sponsor, or would otherwise significantly and unreasonably harm the Tour and such sponsors,” according to the policy, may not be granted waivers to play.
By paying players outrageous sums of money, LIV Golf is undeniably attempting to destroy the PGA Tour. According to reports, Mickelson, DeChambeau, and Dustin Johnson all received nine figures.
Tiger Woods reportedly received a nearly $1 billion offer to join but declined it. In their lawsuit, LIV golfers are actually using this as evidence against the PGA Tour.
The PGA Tour is attempting to exclude an upstart challenger by restricting or raising the price of LIV’s access to players, according to the Wall Street Journal. According to LIV Golf, the PGA Tour has monopoly power in the golf market and is using that power to try to exclude an upstart challenger.
One issue is that golfers are attempting to cherry-pick which PGA Tour events they want to play without actually contributing to the week-to-week growth of the PGA Tour.
The lawsuit states that the goal of the 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.”
LIV golfers would argue that this is a right of an independent contractor, and they did say as much in the lawsuit.
Strangely, players like Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka, and Dustin Johnson, who all left for the LIV Golf League, resigned their membership completely and are not a part of this lawsuit or qualified for the FedEx Cup Playoffs. They are not included in this lawsuit either.