Golf Civil War set for long haul as it hits the US courts

In LIV Golf versus the PGA TOUR (et al) there's only one surefire winner of it all and that's the lawyers.
Golf Civil War set for long haul as it hits the US courts

COURT CASE: USA's Talor Gooch during day two of The Open at the Old Course, St Andrews. Photo: Jane Barlow/PA Wire.

It might take years but whatever the outcome, it’s definitely going to be nasty.

In LIV Golf versus the PGA TOUR (et al) there's only one surefire winner of it all and that's the lawyers.

Jay Monahan, Greg Norman and a host of others will be clicking on Judge Beth Labson Freeman's live video feed from the first skirmish in what promises to be a bloody and painfully drawn-out legal battle.

Lawyers representing Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford last week applied for a temporary restraining order that would require the PGA TOUR to allow them to play alongside Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Séamus Power in this week's FedEx St Jude Championship in Memphis, the first of PGA Tour's three FedEx Cup Playoff events.

The trio were among the 11 LIV Golf players who filed a 106-page antitrust lawsuit against the Tour l in the US District Court in Northern California last week.

The antitrust dispute could take years to resolve but the request for relief from the trio in question, set for a decision from that judge last night, will mean one side or the other will be claiming a PR victory this week in the first skirmish of what will likely prove to be a long and drawn out conflict.

If the three players win, they will be added to the 125-man field for the $15 million event at TPC Southwind and to hear Davis Love III tell it, the players are not going to be happy to see them around.

Like their counterparts on the DP World Tour, the loyalists do not want to allow the rebels to have their cake and eat it.

Love III even suggested a "nuclear option" if things go against the status quo.

"They don't hold all the cards; we hold all the cards. If 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! Our only option, really, the nuclear option, is to say, 'Well, fine. If they have to play in our events, we just won't play!"

LIV Golf CEO Norman told Fox News last week that Tiger Woods turned down $700-$800-million to join the new tour and while it will be interesting to hear the likes of McIlroy and Justin Thomas weigh on Judge Labson Freeman's verdict today.

The PGA TOUR has already issued a scathing response to the lawsuit, claiming it is ridiculous for players to wait nearly two months to file a complaint claiming they need an "emergency" solution when they knew the consequences of their actions right from the start.

"The [temporary restraining order] plaintiffs have waited nearly two months to seek relief from the court, fabricating an 'emergency' they now maintain requires immediate action," a statement from the Tour read.

"Despite knowing full well that they would breach Tour Regulations and be suspended for doing so, Plaintiffs have joined competing golf league LIV Golf, which has paid them tens and hundreds of millions of dollars in guaranteed money supplied by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund to procure their breaches. TRO (Temporary Relief Order) Plaintiffs now run into Court seeking a mandatory injunction to force their way into the Tour's season-ending FedExCup Playoffs, an action that would harm all Tour members that follow the rules. The antitrust laws do not allow Plaintiffs to have their cake and eat it too."

The LIV Golf "rebels" as they are sometimes dubbed, including Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, claim "the Tour flexed its incumbent monopolistic power, including by enforcing its unlawful player restrictions that deny players the ability to sell their services to others, imposing lengthy suspensions on players for merely exercising their right as independent contractors."

The Tour's response has been to point out that in exchange for "enormous sums of cash supplied by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, plaintiffs willfully breached their agreements with the PGA Tour. The players' purported harm is entirely self-induced."

Meanwhile, Australian Cameron Percy fired a grenade into the tournament build up in Memphis when he insisted his Open champion Cameron Smith and fellow Aussie Marc Leishman were set to join LIV Golf.

"Unfortunate, yeah, they're gone," Percy told RSN Radio, before going on to fire a well aimed dart at those who are taking the money.

"The more and more you look into it, some people don't care, some people have got a conscience and do care," he said. "It really comes down to, you know, 'they just executed 80 people this week, just chopped their heads off'. They're not the nicest people in the world.

"Do you just look past that and go, 'Oh well, I'm rich, I don't really care'. It's a tough one, it really is."

The lawyers, meanwhile, are rubbing their hands with glee as golf's civil war enters their domain at last.

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