The PGA Tour filed a countersuit against LIV Golf on Wednesday, alleging that the Saudi Arabian financial aid circuit interfered with its contracts with its members.
The counterclaim was filed as part of the PGA Tour’s response to LIV Golf’s federal antitrust lawsuit, alleging that LIV Golf unlawfully barred PGA Tour players from competing in LIV Golf tournaments and exercised monopoly power over the PGA Tour.
The tour said it campaigned to pay LIV golfers “astronomical funds to use LIV players and the game of golf to break their contracts with the tour to wash away the recent history of Saudi violence in the sport and further the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s Vision 2030 initiatives.”
LIV Golf officials have advised players that their agreement with the PGA Tour will not apply to LIV players while they have their own agreement with LIV players, “which makes the contract restrictions on LIV players more onerous than any other tour’s rules they oppose.”
The move included a text message from LIV Golf CEO and Commissioner Greg Norman to Spaniard Sergio Garcia, in which Norman wrote: “They can’t stop you for a day, let alone a life.” It’s a shallow threat. Ask them to write it down. For you or any player. I bet they don’t. Anyone would be happy to speak to our legal team to see if they have any chance of enforcement.
In the move, he said the PGA Tour’s Player Handbook and Tournament Rules allow it to ban more than two dozen members from competing in LIV golf events, contributing to its success and generating significant sponsorship and distribution revenue. Rewards and benefits for players.
“In this case, LIV is asking the court to strike down these perfectly legal provisions after the rest of the player plaintiffs have been awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in Saudi money for violating those same rules,” the PGA Tour said in a statement. “The remaining player plaintiffs in the case — eight of the original eleven players have withdrawn their names from this lawsuit — want to enrich themselves by completely disregarding the promises they made to the Tour and its members when they joined the Tour.”
On Tuesday, six-time major winner Phil Mickelson and three other players — Ian Poulter, Hudson Swafford and Talor Goch — asked a judge to remove them as plaintiffs in the antitrust case. Four other players who were originally part of the lawsuit — Abraham Anser, Carlos Ortiz, Pat Perez and Jason Kokrak — are also no longer involved in the case.
Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Jones and Peter Uihlein along with LIV Golf remain plaintiffs in the case.
LIV Golf said in a statement Thursday: “The tour made these claims in a clear effort to divert attention from the anti-competitive behavior that LIV and the players detailed in their 104-page complaint.” We are confident that the courts and the justice system will right these wrongs.
The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the PGA Tour’s alleged antitrust practices involving LIV Golf and its players — a charge the tour has denied.
“[T]Attorneys for the PGA Tour argued in the motion that there was no actual injury to the plaintiffs here, and no violation of law. “LIV was successful in attracting a number of prominent golfers to participate in the new league under its own volition. LIV held several events with full fields and announced a full season for 2023. Both LIV and the player plaintiffs paid the financial cost of their suspension to LIV with an inflated signing bonus, which the player plaintiff made whole. Moreover, while LIV and the Player Plaintiffs object to Tourism’s media rights and policing conflicting events as anti-competitive, LIV imposes similar — indeed more restrictive — conditions on the Players, and the Player Plaintiffs agree.
“This case is not about unfair competition – if anyone is competing unfairly, it is LIV, not tourism. Rather, it is a frivolous effort to avoid competition and divest itself of investment in tourism in the development of professional golf. Plaintiffs say the allegations are “baseless and completely without legal merit.”