Judge denies bid by LIV golfers to play PGA Tour FedEx Cup playoffs


The PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs will be held without players who missed out on the Saudi-sponsored LIV Golf Invitational.

A federal judge on Tuesday denied the bids of three golfers — Dalore Cooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford — seeking spots in this week’s St. Jude Championship, which begins Thursday in Memphis. All three had sought a temporary injunction that would have allowed them to play in the season-ending FedEx Cup playoffs, a three-tournament tournament featuring the top 125 golfers in the season-long standings.

In ruling against the players, U.S. District Judge Beth Lapson Freeman said the failure to prove their exclusion from the PGA Tour’s season-ending event caused “irreparable harm.”

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“The evidence shows without a doubt that they earn more than they earned and under competition could reasonably have been expected over a reasonable period of time,” Freeman said.

The request for a temporary injunction is part of a federal antitrust lawsuit filed last week by 11 golfers who are among the game’s biggest names with eight- and nine-figure contracts.

An LIV spokesperson said in a statement on Tuesday: “We are disappointed that Dalore Couch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones will not be allowed to play golf. No one benefits from banning golfers from playing.

Tuesday’s hearing focused narrowly on the request for a temporary injunction, not broader antitrust issues, but Freeman’s ruling and his comments regarding irreparable harm amount to an important 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 getting into 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 a calculation of the players they would leave and the amount the players would have to cash in to cover 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 by the PGA Tour when they jumped to LIV. Golf.

Based on the most recent standings, the three golfers seeking the temporary ban — Gooch (No. 20 in the FedEx Cup rankings), Jones (No. 62) and Swafford (No. 63) — would have qualified for the tournament. But they are banned by the PGA Tour.

In urging Freeman to deny the golfers’ demands, the PGA Tour’s attorneys said in court filings that LIV golfers wanted to “have their cake and eat it too,” cashing Saudi-backed checks while trying to cash in on the PGA Tours. Season-ending matches. The tour’s attorney, Elliott R. Peters told the court that allowing LIV golfers to compete in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event would be “disastrous” for the tour.

“If we are ordered to lift the suspension and they play Thursday morning in their LIV golf hats and LIV golf shirts and their news conferences are about LIV golf, our event becomes a platform for our competitor,” Peters told the judge. tuesday “… wouldn’t LIV Golf love it? A chance for its players to promote it at our marquee event? It’s not fair to the PGA Tour.

Freeman noted on several occasions that LIV Golf has progressed to become a competitive company in a relatively short period of time, even without settling the antitrust claims. At one point, the tour’s lawyer shared a slide showing that half of the top 10 players in the tour’s Player Impact Program last year went to the Saudi-backed breakaway organization.

“That’s remarkable,” Freeman said.

That group includes DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson, but three tournaments into its inaugural year, LIV golf teams are clearly still growing. Aussie Cameron Smith, who won last month’s British Open, has agreed to a $100 million deal and will return to the circuit soon. According to the TelegraphAnd compatriot Marc Leishman is also said to be bound for LIV.

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

In Tuesday’s hearing, Freeman didn’t spend much time considering the merits of the antitrust claims outlined in the suit, focusing on the request for a temporary injunction. Lawyers for the golfers told the court that the golfers should be allowed to participate in PGA Tour-sanctioned events as they appeal their suspensions.

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Meanwhile, attorneys for the tour said the players waited too long — less than a week before the first round of the St. Jude Championship — to seek emergency intervention, urging the court to “use its equitable powers to resolve genuine emergencies.” They are not engineered by parties who knowingly accepted multi-million dollar payments to keep themselves in their current situation.

Prosecutors sometimes referred to redacted portions of court filings that apparently revealed details of players’ contracts with LIV Golf. At one point on Tuesday, the players’ attorney, Robert C. Walters referred to players’ earnings from LIV events against the advance they received for signing up for the inaugural series, something LIV officials have repeatedly denied.

While the LIV players’ lawsuit continues — Freeman has indicated a trial won’t happen before next summer — the Justice Department is examining the tour for possible antitrust violations, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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