OAKLAND, Calif. — Phil Mickelson and 10 other golfers who are playing for the LIV Golf Invitational Series filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour on Wednesday, alleging that their careers were damaged when the Tour suspended them after they joined the Saudi-funded organization.
The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California in Oakland, was expected once the LIV circuit challenged the PGA Tour for supremacy in professional golf, The Washington Post reported.
Mickelson, 52, who is tied for eighth with Walter Hagen on the PGA Tour’s all-time victory list with 45 titles, also has won six majors including three Masters crowns. He was joined in the lawsuit by Bryson DeChambeau, Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford, Matt Jones, Ian Poulter, Abraham Ancer, Carlos Ortiz, Pat Perez, Jason Kokrak and Peter Uihlein.
“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 lawsuit alleges.
According to ESPN, a separate motion also requested relief that would allow Gooch, Swafford and Jones to play in the Tour’s three FedEx playoff events, including next week’s St. Jude Championship in Memphis, Tennessee.
“The punishment that would accrue to these players from not being able to play in the FedEx Cup Playoffs is substantial and irreparable,” the lawsuit alleges. “A temporary restraining order is needed to prevent the irreparable harm that would ensue were they not to be able to participate.”
The 11 players who filed the lawsuit have not forfeited their PGA Tour memberships and hoped to still play on both tours, the Post reported. However, the PGA Tour handed out multiple-year suspensions after they played in the LIV events, according to the newspaper.
The lawsuit alleges that the PGA Tour not only has threatened golfers who wanted to play in LIV tournaments, but also “threatened sponsors, vendors, and agents to coerce players to abandon opportunities to play in LIV Golf events.” The plaintiffs also alleges that the Tour “orchestrated a per se unlawful group boycott with the European Tour to deny LIV Golf access to their member,” and “leaned on” groups that hosted pro four major championships in an effort to ban those players from competing in those events.
The lawsuit also revealed that PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan suspended Mickelson for two months in March for his role in recruiting players to the LIV series, according to The Associated Press. The suspension reportedly runs until at least March 31, 2024, ESPN reported.
In a memo to players sent Wednesday, Monahan called the attempt by the three players to gain entry to the FedEx Cup playoffs “an attempt to use the Tour platform to promote themselves and to freeride on your benefits and efforts.”
“Fundamentally, these suspended players -- who are now Saudi Golf League employees -- have walked away from the TOUR and now want back in. With the Saudi Golf League on hiatus, they’re trying to use lawyers to force their way into competition alongside our members in good standing,” read the memo, which was obtained by the Post.
Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is the primary source for the LIV series’ large signing bonuses, the AP reported. The fledgling tour has had $25 million purses for 48-man fields in its events.
©2022 Cox Media Group