Players of the LIV Golf Tour won’t be seeing the PGA circuit for a while.
Multiple LIV Golf players have sued the PGA Tour for suspending them from playing. U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freemanhas officially set the trial for January 8, 2024, which would keep LIV players from competing in PGA Tour events for at least another year, according to Yahoo Sports.
Why it’s news
The PGA has been the undisputed leader in organizing professional golf for decades. But now, this Saudi-backed upstart, LIV Golf, is trying to compete with the PGA (Professional Golfers’ Association of America) Tour, which sanctions the bulk of pro golf in the country for more than 100 years. LIV is backed by the Public Invest Fund, led by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The new tour has pulled many golfers away from the PGA Tour with promises of hefty checks. For example, LIV will pay Phil Mickelson $200 million to play in the startup tour, which is nearly double what legend Tiger Woods has earned in prize money during his entire career. LIV gave the world’s number-one golfer Dustin Johnson a four-year, $125 million contract, which doubled his lifetime earnings of $74 million.
Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, and nine other LIV golfers filed an antitrust complaint against the PGA Tour. The players qualified for the PGA’s FedEx Cup Playoffs and its $18 million top prize at the end of the tour’s 2022 season, but were banned from participating for joining the controversial LIV team.
Judge Freeman sided with the PGA by denying the players’ request to temporarily lift its ban so they could play in the FedEx Cup.
Attorneys for the players sought a trial date in August 2023, but PGA Tour attorneys indicated that was an unreasonable request due to the volume of expert testimony necessary. If, as expected, the case reaches the discovery stage, both sides will likely consult with key figures from throughout the golf industry, from players to sponsors to officials in charge of golf’s four majors, says Yahoo Sports.
Despite the suspensions and the ongoing legal battle, reports continue to emerge of other PGA golfers joining the rival tour.
This week, Tiger Woods and other PGA stars met with LIV to discuss LIV’s taking players from the tour. Woods has not been quiet on his opinions of PGA players leaving for the new tour.
Rory McIlroy, the world No. 3, said Woods’ leadership at the meeting was crucial as players discussed how to improve the PGA Tour, reports The New York Times.
“He is the hero that we’ve all looked up to. His voice carries further than anyone else’s in the game of golf,” says Mcllroy.
Fans hope that the meeting may bring some unity between the rival tours, but as for now the tension is still there.