MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Rory McIlroy drew attention to court proceedings Tuesday when a federal judge in California denied a temporary restraining order to three suspended PGA Tour members who signed with LIV Golf and later wanted to play in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
“From my point of view, common sense prevailed, and I thought it was the right decision,” McIlroy said Wednesday. “Now that that’s happened, I think it just lets us focus on the important things, which is golf. We can all move forward and not have that side show for the next few weeks, which is nice.”
Justin Thomaswho said he was looking for updates from the hearing on Twitter, also agreed with US District Judge Beth Labson Freeman’s ruling.
McIlroy and Thomas both said the ongoing dispute between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf became more personal when 11 players, including Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeaufiled an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour in federal court last week.
“It was personal to me from the beginning,” Thomas said. “It’s like I said from the beginning. Those guys got a chance to go play and just go play. You can have your cake, but you don’t have to eat it too. And they got their fair share of a great, great deal of cake, and go eat it at your own expense. You don’t need to bring it on our tour.”
“Guys are going to make their own decisions that they think are best for them, and that’s totally fine,” McIlroy said. “Again, I don’t begrudge anyone for going to play LIV or taking guaranteed money. If that’s your prerogative and what you want to do, that’s fine. I think where the resentment comes from, from the membership of this tour, is the fact that they want to try to get back in here without consequences, and anyone who has read the PGA Tour handbook or followed the rules and regulations, that would feel very unfair to them.”
Thomas, who won the PGA Championship at Southern Hills in May and is eighth in the FedEx Cup points standings, said the drama between the circuits was entertainment.
“It unfortunately just takes the golf world a little bit and takes away from great stories,” Thomas said. “I believe I saw Scottie [Scheffler] came in and did his interview [Tuesday]and I’m sure he was asked what happened, and he had one of the best seasons of all time.
“I mean, the most money that’s ever been won and winning the FedEx Cup by a mile, I’m sure there weren’t as many questions about that as there should have been. It’s little things where it takes away. the big picture of what’s going on on the PGA Tour, obviously in the game of golf as a whole that’s going on.”
The drama may not be going away anytime soon. While Freeman denied the temporary restraining order, she did not rule on the LIV players’ antitrust claims. She has scheduled a jury trial in the US District Court in San Jose, California, for September 2023. There will be discovery from both sides and lots of testimony between now and then.
There are also likely to be more PGA Tour members leaving for lucrative signing bonuses and bigger purses on the LIV Golf circuit. Cameron Smiththe number 2 ranked player in the world who won the Open Championship at St. Andrews last month, is the latest player to be linked to the league funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.
McIlroy knows Tuesday’s verdict was a small victory for the PGA Tour in a much bigger battle.
“It’s like there’s such a long way to go,” McIlroy said. “It’s like you birdied the first hole, but you still have 17 holes to play.”