Rebel Saudi league golfers sue PGA over sanctions
Phil Mickelson is among the names to launch legal proceedings against the PGA
Six-time major winner Phil Mickelson is among 11 players associated with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series to have launched a lawsuit against the PGA amid claims their decision to suspend the rogue stars is detrimental to their careers.
The group, which also contains Bryson DeChambeau and Ian Poulter, launched proceedings on Wednesday in San Francisco federal court and are seeking compensation for what they claim is the PGA's demonstration of anti-competitive conduct.
“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,” language in the lawsuit reads.
“The purpose of this action is to strike down the PGA Tour’s anticompetitive rules and practices that prevent these independent-contractor golfers from playing when and where they choose.”
The PGA reacted with vitriol to the cascade of players who were tempted by significant financial offers to take part in LIV Golf events; a scenario which the PGA insists threatens the future of the sport and destroys its accepted structure.
They announced suspensions and fines for players who joined up with the breakaway league, which is headed by golf veteran Greg Norman.
However, some top golfers have resisted the urge – including Tiger Woods, who is reported to have turned down a sum of between $700-700 million to join forces with LIV Golf.
It made its eastern US debut last week with an event at Donald Trump's National Golf Club at Bedminster, New Jersey – despite furious protests from families who lost loved ones at the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York, a tragedy previously blamed by Trump on Saudi Arabia.
Should Mickelson and his fellow defectors be successful in challenging their suspension, it could lead to further trouble said former Ryder Cup captain Davis Love.
“If the LIV guys sue and are allowed to play on the PGA Tour, the players are enough fed up with it,” he said.
“We understand that we make the rules on the PGA Tour and the commissioner is enforcing our rules and we don’t want those guys playing, coming and cherry-picking our tournaments.
“We hold all the cards. We say to the FTC [Federal Trade Commission] and to Washington, ‘No, we support the rules. We don’t want those guys playing. We don’t care what the courts say’.
“The nuclear option is to say ‘Fine, if they have to play in our events we just won’t play’.”
Love had previously expressed concern at the introduction of LIV events to the golf calendar but admits he was “dead wrong” to say it wouldn't take off.
But if the players who chased Saudi paydays want a fight, Love says he'll be happy to give it to them – noting that the suspensions levied upon Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed make them ineligible to play for the Love-led United States team in September's President's Cup.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen from here on out, but I know it’s going to be a fight and the players are getting more and more unified against it.”