Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau among 11 Leaf golfers to file antitrust lawsuit against PGA Tour

Phil MickelsonAnd the Bryson DeShampoo And nine other players who have been suspended by the PGA Tour for joining LIV Golf filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour on Wednesday.

In addition, three of these golfers are seeking a temporary restraining order from a federal judge that would allow them to compete in the upcoming FedEx Cup Playoffs.

The suit, which was filed in the US District Court of Northern California, sought an exemption that would have allowed this Taylor GotschAnd the Hudson Swafford And the Matt Jones To play in the three FedEx Cup play-off events, starting with next week’s FedEx St. Jude Championships in Memphis. A hearing to consider the players’ application for a temporary restraining order is scheduled for Tuesday in San Jose, California.

The golfers’ attorneys wrote in the suit, “The penalty that would arise upon these players from their inability to play in the FedEx Cup Playoffs is substantial and irreparable,” and a temporary restraining order is needed to prevent the irreparable damage that would and therefore not be able to participate. “.

Carlos OrtizAnd the Ian PoulterAnd the Peter OehlinAnd the Jason KocrackAnd the Pat Perez And the Abraham Anser They are the other plaintiffs identified in the antitrust lawsuit, of which ESPN obtained a copy on Wednesday.

Last month, two player managers confirmed to ESPN that the US Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the PGA Tour’s handling of its players and whether it has engaged in uncompetitive behavior during its ongoing battle with LIV Golf.

“As part of its carefully orchestrated plan to defeat the competition, the Tour threatened to impose a lifetime ban on players playing even in a single LIV Golf event,” the suit says. “It has supported these threats by imposing an unprecedented suspension on players (including plaintiffs) that threatens to cause irreparable harm to players and their ability to exercise their profession. Sponsors, vendors and agents have threatened to force players to forgo playing opportunities at LIV Golf events. itself orchestrated an illegal mass boycott of the European Tour to prevent LIV Golf from reaching its members.”

In a note sent to PGA Tour players Wednesday, Commissioner Jay Monahan wrote that the tour “will continue to advocate for members who adhere to regulations written by and for players.”

“We have been preparing to protect our membership and challenge this latest attempt to disrupt our tour, and you should be confident in the legal merits of our position,” Monahan wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN. “Essentially, these suspended players – who are now employees of the Saudi Golf League – have walked away from the tour and now want to come back. With the Saudi Golf League on hold, they are trying to hire lawyers to force them to compete alongside our members in good standing.

“It is an attempt to use the TOUR platform to promote themselves and to freely obtain your benefits and efforts. To allow re-entry into our events puts the Tour and the competition at risk, to the detriment of our organization, our players, our partners and our fans. The lawsuit they have brought somehow expects us to believe the opposite, which is why we intend to make our case clearly and forcefully “.

According to the lawsuit filed by members of LIV Golf, PGA Tour players who have appeared in the first three LIV Golf tournaments – a group that includes Mickelson, Gooch, Swafford, Jones, Uihlein and Poulter – face a nearly two-year suspension from the Tour, until at least March 31, 2024.

The lawsuit said Mickelson, the six-times main champion, was originally suspended for two months by the PGA Tour on March 22 for reasons including “attempting to recruit players [LIV Golf]. “The Appeals Committee upheld Mickelson’s suspension. His request to reinstate his position was denied about two months later because he played in the first LIV Golf event in London. At the time, it was extended for a year. It was extended for another year when he played in Portland.

The lawsuit noted that DeChambeau, who has been suspended by the PGA Tour until March 31, 2023, “has been sent a notice that he is sanctioning him for speaking to other Tour members about positive experiences he has had with LIV Golf.”

The three players who have sued to compete in the upcoming FedEx Cup qualifiers from the PGA Tour have been suspended after they competed in LIV Golf events without a conflicting event being issued. Gooch is ranked 20th in the FedEx Cup points standings, Swafford is at 63rd and Jones is at 91st. The top 125 points players qualify for the first FedEx Cup Qualifying Event.

Among other things, players’ lawyers argued in their proposal that barring them from competing in the FedEx Cup qualifiers would restrict them from earning golf world ranking points that would allow them to receive an exemption from next season’s Grand Slam.

“The conduct of the Tour serves no purpose other than to cause harm to players and prevent the entry of the first meaningful competitive threat the Tour has faced in decades,” the lawsuit says. “Banning plaintiffs and other top professional golfers from its events reduces the strength of the round’s field and reduces the quality of the product it offers to golf enthusiasts by preventing them from seeing so many great golfers participating in the round’s events. The only conceivable benefit of a round is Insulting its own product in this way is to destroy the competition. In fact, the Tour has explicitly waived its anti-competitive goal of attacking and harming players.”

The FedEx St. Jude Championship and the BMW Championship, second leg of the FedEx Cup qualifiers, each have $11.5 million in cash. The season-ending Tour Championships at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta costs $75 million, with $17.5 million going to the winner.

More than twenty players, including former big champions Dustin JohnsonAnd the Brooks KopkaAnd the Patrick Reedand DeChambeau and Sergio Garcia, was suspended by the PGA Tour for competing in LIV events. Johnson and Garcia are among the players who quit their PGA Tour membership.

The lawsuit alleges that the PGA Tour pressured major tournament governing bodies to bid. It added that Augusta National Golf Club president Fred Ridley “threatened players to be stripped of Masters if they join LIV Golf”, that he “personally ordered a number of participants in the 2022 Masters Tournament not to play in the LIV Golf Invitational Series” and that Ridley refused to meet CEO Greg Norman. for LIV Golf to understand the new circuit’s business model.”

Many of the suspended players already have exemptions in at least some major tournaments as former champions. For example, Mickelson has career exemptions in the Masters and PGA Championships, an exemption in the US Open until 2026 and an exemption in The Open until he is 60 (he is 52). DeChambeau, who won the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot, is exempted in the event until 2030 and in the Masters, The Open and PGA Championships until 2025.