Judge denies LIV golfers bid to play PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs – The Washington Post

Judge denies LIV golfers bid to play PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs - The Washington Post


The PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup finals will be held without any of the players who defected to the Saudi Arabia-funded LIV Golf Invitational Series.

A federal judge on Tuesday denied the bid of three golfers – Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford – seeking spots in the St. Louis Championship. Jude of this week, which begins Thursday in Memphis. The trio sought a temporary restraining order that would allow them to play in the season-ending FedEx Cup playoffs, a three-tournament competition that includes the top 125 golfers in season-long standings.

In ruling against the players, U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman said they had failed to prove that their exclusion from the PGA Tour’s season-ending event amounted to “irreparable harm,” noting that they can make more money competing in the LIV Golf series.

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“The evidence shows almost without a doubt that they will earn more than they would and could reasonably be expected to make in a reasonable period of time under the tournaments,” Freeman said.

The temporary restraining order was part of a federal antitrust lawsuit filed last week by 11 golfers who claim their careers were hurt when the PGA Tour punished them for signing with rival LIV Golf, the Saudi-backed startup that lured away some of the sport’s biggest names with eight- and nine-figure contracts.

A LIV spokesperson said in a statement on Tuesday: “We are disappointed that Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones will not be allowed to play golf. Nobody wins by banning golfers from playing.”

Tuesday’s hearing was narrowly focused on the temporary restraining order, not the broader antitrust issues, but Freeman’s ruling and her comments about irreparable harm amount to a major legal victory for the PGA Tour. The judge had access to some of the golfers’ contract details, which were redacted in court filings, and said the players clearly understood what they were losing by signing with LIV Golf.

“It appears to the court that the LIV contracts negotiated by the players and executed between the parties were based on the players’ calculation of what they would leave behind and the amount the players would need to monetize to offset those losses,” Freeman. said

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The 11 golfers behind the lawsuit – Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Gooch, Swafford, Jones, Ian Poulter, Abraham Ancer, Carlos Ortiz, Pat Perez, Jason Kokrak and Peter Uihlein – were suspended from the PGA Tour when they made the jump to LIV. golf

Based on the most recent standings, the three golfers seeking the temporary restraining order would have qualified to compete in the tournament — Gooch (No. 20 in the FedEx Cup standings), Jones (No. 62) and Swafford (No. 63) — but they were banned from the PGA Tour.

Urging Freeman to deny the golfers’ requests, PGA Tour lawyers said in court filings that the LIV golfers wanted to “have their cake and eat it too,” paying the Saudi-backed checks while still trying to win money from the PGA Tour. end of season tournaments. The tour’s attorney, Elliot R. Peters, told the court that allowing the LIV golfers to compete in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event would be “devastating” to the tour.

“If we are ordered to lift the suspension and they show up Thursday morning to play with their LIV Golf hats and LIV Golf shirts and their news conferences are about LIV Golf, our event becomes a stage for our competitor,” Peters told the judge. tuesday “…Wouldn’t LIV Golf love that? The chance to have its players promote it at our marquee event? That’s not fair to the PGA Tour.”

While not addressing the antitrust claims, Freeman noted numerous times that LIV Golf has taken steps to become a competitive entity in a relatively short period of time. At one point, the tour’s lawyer shared a slide that showed half of the top 10 players in the tour’s Player Impact Program last year left for the Saudi-backed organization.

“That’s remarkable,” Freeman said.

That group includes DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson, but three tournaments into its fledgling year, the LIV Golf ranks seem to keep growing. Cameron Smith, the Australian who won last month’s British Open, has agreed to a $100 million contract and will soon be jumping circuits, according to the Telegraphand his compatriot Marc Leishman is also said to be LIV-bound.

Smith is in the field at this week’s St. Louis championship. Jude and declined to discuss his plans at a news conference on Tuesday. “My goal here is to win the FedEx Cup playoffs. That’s all I’m here for,” he told reporters. “I have no comment on that.”

At Tuesday’s hearing, Freeman didn’t spend much time considering the merits of the antitrust claims presented in the lawsuit, focusing instead on the temporary restraining order request. The players’ lawyers told the court that the golfers should be allowed to compete in PGA Tour-sanctioned events while they appeal their suspensions.

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The tour’s lawyers, meanwhile, argued that the players waited too long – less than a week before the first round of the St Jude’s Championship – to request emergency intervention, urging the court in a filing to “use its equitable powers to compensate actual crises,” not engineered by parties who knowingly accepted multi-million payouts to put themselves in the situation they are in.”

Attorneys have occasionally referred to redacted portions of the court filings that appear to reveal details of the players’ contracts with LIV Golf. At one point on Tuesday, the players’ lawyer, Robert C. Walters, made a reference to player winnings from LIV events counting against upfront money they received for signing with the initial series, something LIV officials have repeatedly denied.

While the LIV players’ trial will continue — Freeman indicated a trial may not take place until next summer — the Justice Department is also investigating the tour for possible antitrust violations, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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