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Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and nine other golfers suspended by the PGA Tour for joining LIV Golf have filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour on Wednesday.
In addition, three of those golfers are seeking a temporary restraining order from a federal judge that would allow them to compete in the upcoming FedEx Cup Playoffs.
The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California, requested relief that would allow Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones to play in the three FedEx Cup Playoff events, starting with next week’s FedEx St. Jude Championship in Memphis.
“The punishment that would accrue to these players from not being able to play in the FedEx Cup Playoffs is substantial and irreparable,” the golfers’ attorneys wrote in the lawsuit, “and a temporary restraining order is needed to prevent the irreparable harm that would ensue were they not to be able to participate.”
Carlos Ortiz, Ian Poulter, Peter Uihlein, Jason Kokrak, Pat Perez and Abraham Ancer are the other plaintiffs identified in the lawsuit, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN on Wednesday.
“As part of its carefully orchestrated plan to defeat competition, the Tour has threatened lifetime bans on players who play in even a single LIV Golf event,” the lawsuit says. “It has backed up these threats by imposing unprecedented suspensions on players (including the Plaintiffs) that threaten irreparable harm to the players and their ability to pursue their profession. It has threatened sponsors, vendors, and agents to coerce players to abandon opportunities to play in LIV Golf events. And it has orchestrated a per se unlawful group boycott with the European Tour to deny LIV Golf access to their members.”
The three players filing suit to compete in the upcoming FedEx Cup Playoffs were suspended from the PGA Tour by commissioner Jay Monahan after they competed in LIV Golf events without a conflicting-event release. Gooch is ranked 20th in the FedEx Cup points standings; Swafford is 63rd and Jones is 91st. The top 125 players in points are eligible for the first FedEx Cup Playoffs event.
Among other things, the players’ attorneys argued in their motion that prohibiting them from competing in the FedEx Cup Playoffs would restrict them from gaining Official World Golf Ranking points that would allow them to gain exemption into the four major championships next season.
“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 says. “Banning Plaintiffs and other top professional golfers from its own events degrades the Tour’s strength of field and diminishes the quality of the product that it offers to golf fans by depriving them from seeing many top golfers participate in Tour events. The only conceivable benefit to the Tour from degrading its own product in this manner is the destruction of competition. Indeed, the Tour has conceded its nakedly anticompetitive purpose in attacking and injuring the players.”
The FedEx St. Jude Championship and the BMW Championship, the second leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, each have purses of $11.5 million. The season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta has a $75 million purse, with $17.5 million going to the winner.
More than two dozen players, including past major champions Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Bryson DeChambeau and Sergio Garcia, have been suspended by the PGA Tour for competing in LIV Golf Invitational Series events. Johnson and Garcia are among the players who have resigned as PGA Tour members.
Several of the suspended players already have exemptions into at least some of the majors as past champions. For instance, Mickelson has lifetime exemptions at the Masters and PGA Championship, an exemption at the U.S. Open until 2026, and an exemption at The Open until he turns 60. DeChambeau, who won the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, is exempt in that event until 2030 and at the Masters, The Open and PGA Championship until 2025.
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