PGA Tour files petition against lawsuit aimed at allowing LIV golfers into 2022 FedEx Cup playoffs

The first PGA Tour postseason event ostensibly begins Thursday in Memphis, Tennessee, but the FedEx Cup playoffs will actually begin Tuesday in a California courtroom when a judge temporarily rules in the ongoing battle between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf.

Ahead of the proceedings, the PGA Tour filed the following motion in response to a recent lawsuit filed by LIV golfers seeking entry into the FedEx Cup playoffs.

“Despite knowing full well that they would violate Tour regulations and be suspended for doing so, plaintiffs have joined rival golf league LIV Golf, which has paid them tens and hundreds of millions of dollars in guaranteed money provided by Saudi -Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund to fund their breach,” the proposal says.[Temporary restraining order] Plaintiffs are now running to court seeking a mandatory injunction to force their way into the Tour’s season-ending FedEx Cup playoffs, an action that would harm all Tour members who follow the rules. The antitrust laws do not allow plaintiffs to have their cake and eat it too.”

While the details of the 106-page lawsuit archived by 11 LIV golfers last week against the PGA Tour are extremely complicated, the premise of this week’s matchup is simple: Three LIV golfers — Matt Jones, Talor Gooch and Hudson Swafford — qualified for and want to play in the FedEx Cup Playoffs over the next the three weeks, and the PGA Tour is trying to keep them out because they violated their PGA Tour contracts.

The end result could be an event in Memphis that includes 128 golfers instead of the usual 125, depending on Tuesday’s ruling. In the lawsuit filed last week by the 11 LIV golfers, the FedEx Cup playoffs were a primary concern.

Plaintiffs Gooch, Swafford and Jones (among other plaintiffs) had earned the right to play in the FedEx Cup Playoffs (a series of lucrative and high-profile events scheduled at the end of the PGA Tour’s 2022 season) through strong performance and dedication to the Tour, but the Tour has banned them from playing in these tournaments, reducing the strength of their own fields and harming these plaintiffs.

The damage to these players extends beyond mere banning from these tournaments (in itself a significant and irreparable injury), but also destroys their chances of qualifying for both the Majors and the Tour’s top invitations in future seasons. The penalty that would be imposed on these players for not being able to play in the FedEx Cup Playoffs is significant and irreparable, and a temporary restraining order is necessary to prevent the irreparable harm that would occur if they were unable to participate.

Whether they are actually allowed to play this week at the FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind — where the total purse for the first playoff is $15 million — via a temporary restraining order on the PGA Tour’s ban on LIV golfers from the postseason. the events will be decided on Tuesday in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.

The timing here is curious and important. The 11 players filed against the Tour last week knowing that a decision would be needed almost immediately for the FedEx Cup playoffs, and this is likely to benefit them as a temporary restraining order could prove to be a more effective move on short term. Indeed, this is what allowed Ian Poulter, Adrian Otaegui and Justin Harding to play in the Scottish Open last month despite their original suspension from that tournament. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan called out the timing in a letter to PGA Tour players shortly after the lawsuit was dropped, and the sentiment was echoed in his response Monday.

TRO plaintiffs have waited nearly two months to seek relief from the court, fabricating an “emergency” that they now maintain requires immediate action. It doesn’t. Their ineligibility for Tour events was predictable as they accepted millions from LIV to break their agreements with the Tour and they knew for a fact that they were suspended on June 9th. The harm they are now alleging from their suspensions is 100% economic and capable of restitution with money damages.

In fact, several other LIV players, including four other plaintiffs in this case, acknowledge that there is no emergency or irreparable harm; they have also qualified to play in the FedEx Cup, but have not asked the court for the extraordinary relief sought through this motion. The court should use its equitable powers to remedy real emergencies, not contrived by parties who knowingly accepted multi-million dollar payments to put themselves in their position.

It has become clear that while PGA Tour players are largely ambivalent about their colleagues leaving to join the LIV Golf League, they are extremely unhappy that the same players who took contracts from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund are now trying to double down dip while most have remained steadfast in their commitment to the original tour.

While an immediate decision will come this week regarding whether or not these golfers are allowed to play in the FedEx Cup playoffs, that decision is not necessarily a harbinger of how the whole thing will play out. Again, to put it simply, LIV players are basically suing the PGA Tour for the opportunity to play in both the LIV Golf League and the PGA Tour, similar to how golfers participate in both the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour. However, the PGA Tour disputes and will continue to argue that LIV golfers have violated the PGA Tour regulations put in place for them.

“LIV is not a rational economic actor, competing fairly to launch a golf tour. It is prepared to lose billions of dollars to exploit the plaintiffs and the sport of golf to ‘sportswash’ the Saudi government’s deplorable reputation for human rights abuses. If the plaintiffs are allowed to break their TOUR contracts without consequence, the entire mutually beneficial structure of the TOUR, an arrangement that has expanded the sport and advanced the interests of golfers going back to Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, would collapse.”

How this all plays out will be interesting, but perhaps not ultimately consequential. Although the court rules in favor of LIV golfers being able to play both tournaments in the long term, the LIV Golf League has yet to acquire OWGR points, allowing the golfers to play in the biggest tournaments in the world, including the major championships.

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