A US federal judge has ruled in favor of the PGA Tour, denying three LIV Golf players a temporary restraining order that would have allowed them to play in the first event of the Tour’s postseason, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced in a memo Tuesday evening.
Last week, 11 golfers on the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series filed an antitrust lawsuit to challenge their suspensions by the PGA Tour. Three of those golfers – Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones – were seeking a temporary restraining order so they could compete this week in the first playoff event, the FedEx St. Jude Championship, which starts Thursday in Memphis, Tennessee.
“The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California today denied their emergency relief request, and those players remain ineligible for PGA TOUR tournament competition, including this week’s FedEx St. Jude Championship,” Monahan’s memo said.
“With today’s news, our players, fans and partners can now focus on what really matters over the next three weeks: the best players in the world competing in the FedExCup Playoffs, capping off an incredibly compelling season with the crowning of the FedExCup champion at the TOUR Championship,” the memo said.
The players who are part of the lawsuit are Phil Mickelson, Gooch, Swafford, Jones, Bryson DeChambeau, Abraham Ancer, Carlos Ortiz, Ian Poulter, Pat Perez, Jason Kokrak and Peter Uihlein.
LIV Golf released a short statement Tuesday, expressing disappointment. “No one gains by banning golfers from playing,” officials said. The controversial LIV tour has attracted some big names from the golfing world to leave the established PGA Tour and the DP World Tour to participate for vast sums of money.
In June, Monahan indicated the LIV Golf Invitational Series represents a serious threat to the success of the PGA Tour.
“If this is an arms race and if the only weapons here are dollar bills, the PGA Tour can’t compete,” he said. “The PGA Tour, an American institution, can’t compete with a foreign monarchy that is spending billions of dollars in an attempt to buy the game of golf.
“We welcome good, healthy competition. The LIV Saudi Golf League is not that. It’s an irrational threat; one not concerned with the return on investment or true growth of the game.”
CEO Greg Norman told Fox News last week that LIV Golf officials had offered Tiger Woods about $700-800 million to join the series, which he turned down.
The series is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) – a sovereign wealth fund chaired by Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia – and has pledged to award $250 million in total prize money.
That has led to criticism from many PGA Tour players, including Rory McIlroy and Woods, that players have abandoned golf’s traditional set up and accepted money from a country with a dismal human rights record.
According to the PGA Tour, any golfer that joined LIV Golf was ruled ineligible to participate in tournament play since early June.
LIV Golf’s next three-day event is scheduled to begin September 2 in Boston.