A federal judge on Tuesday denied a temporary restraining order to three golfers who were seeking to participate in the FedEx Cup Playoffs after leaving the PGA Tour for the upstart LIV Golf Invitational Series.
The players, Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford, were seeking relief to participate in the first leg of the playoffs, at this week’s FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind.
The top 125 players in the FedEx Cup standings are eligible to compete in the FedEx St. Jude Championship. Gooch is 20th in the standings, Jones is 65th and Swafford is 67th. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan suspended the players after they appeared in LIV Golf tournaments without conflicting-event releases from the tour.
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U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman, of the Northern District of California, ruled that the LIV players had not made their case of irreparable harm and agreed with the tour’s position that the players’ argument for emergency relief was of “their own making.”
“It appears to the court that the LIV contracts, negotiated by the players and consummated between the parties, were based upon the players’ calculation of what they would be leaving behind and the amount the players would need to monetize to compensate for those losses,” Freeman said in her ruling. “I do agree with the defendants [the PGA Tour] that those losses were well known to the players at the time and clearly monetized.”
Freeman noted that LIV Golf affords the suspended players an opportunity to play elite golf in the United States with guaranteed pay. “And, in fact, the evidence shows that it seems almost without a doubt that they will be earning more than they have made and could reasonably have expected to make in a reasonable amount of time under the PGA [Tour].”
“They made a business decision to receive money,” PGA Tour lawyer Elliot Peters argued during the hearing. “They have made in the last two months more money than they’ve ever made on the PGA Tour. They have already been paid to compensate for what they are here complaining about.”
LIV Golf officials said in a statement they were “disappointed” at Freeman’s decision. “No one gains by banning golfers from playing,” the statement read.
The PGA Tour said in a statement, “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.”
Gooch, Jones and Swafford and eight other LIV Golf players, including Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour in federal court last week.
Freeman told attorneys that her court’s first availability for a trial on the antitrust lawsuit would be September 2023. If that date doesn’t work, the trial might not happen until 2025. That is significant because LIV players aren’t currently receiving Official World Golf Ranking points for LIV events. LIV Golf recently submitted an application to OWGR for consideration.
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