11 surprises from Phil Mickelson, other LIV players’ lawsuit vs. PGA Tour

A group of 11 LIV signatories have filed an antitrust complaint against the PGA Tour.

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Much of the messaging between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour has been veiled to this day, but not anymore. The war for men’s professional golf has officially reached the courtroom, with Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and nine others filing a lawsuit against the PGA Tour for anti-competitive practices and trade restriction.

The truth is, we always knew it would happen here. We just didn’t know when. Technically, the first courtroom appearance for LIV golfers this year came just weeks ago when Ian Poulter and three others won their place in the Scottish Open via a UK claims tribunal. . This lawsuit, however, is much meatier.

The complaint is 105 pages long and outlines numerous transgressions the plaintiffs have with the PGA Tour settlements and suspensions handed over this year. As we know you don’t have time to read everything, we’ve gone through it and sketched out a number of surprises, some more important than others, that will help you better understand the issues.

1. Not all LIV actors are involved

Many players have participated in LIV golf events and been suspended or rendered ineligible by the Tour, but only 11 – the LIV 11, some have called them – have taken this legal action. Mickelson and DeChambeau are joined by Poulter, Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford, Matt Jones, Abe Ancer, Carlos Ortiz, Pat Perez, Jason Kokrak and Peter Uihlein.

No Dustin Johnson, no Brooks Koepka, no Sergio Garcia or Lee Westwood or Henrik Stenson. There is an interesting part here. Some players have resigned from their Tour memberships, such as Johnson, Garcia and Westwood. Others may not have been interested in pursuing at this point. Each player’s level of involvement with LIV Golf has been different so far as you can read below resulting in different levels of suspension and punishment so far.

2. Phil Mickelson has been suspended

In early March, it was unclear if Phil Mickelson had been suspended by the PGA Tour. Commissioner Jay Monahan spoke at The Players Championship about Mickelson’s inflammatory comments — Mickelson told reporter Alan Shipnuck he was aiming for leverage against the PGA Tour — but did not acknowledge whether the Tour had suspended Mickelson. On Wednesday, we learned that he was… finally.

According to the complaint, Mickelson was suspended on March 22, with the option to seek reinstatement two months later on May 22. The reasoning, according to the documents, was to recruit players to join the LIV series. Mickelson then filed for reinstatement on June 20. He was turned down, the Tour said, because he had taken part in the LIV Golf London event. Then, on July 23, the Tour again extended Mickelson’s suspension after playing the LIV Golf London event. At this point, according to the complaint, Mickelson would not be allowed to seek reinstatement until March 31, 2024. He had racked up a whole bunch of wrongdoing, according to the PGA Tour, and it was to be played at the LIV event. of last week. at Trump Westminster.

3. The lawsuit was filed in… Northern California?

The PGA Tour is headquartered in Florida, which is also the home state of many of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, but the lawsuit was filed in the District of Northern California. Why? The complaint explains.

For starters, the PGA Tour hosts more events in California (six) than in any other state. The lawsuit alleges plaintiffs first received an anti-competitive threat in Southern California in 2020 (think: the 2020 Farmers Insurance Open, where a players’ meeting was held). Then, at the 2022 Genesis Invitational, again, other alleged threats took place, also in California. In short, many of the discussions and events in the LIV Golf timeline have taken place in the Golden State, making it probably the most beneficial district to file.

4. Bryson had to back down

Remember when Bryson DeChambeau released a statement on February 20? He said: “As long as the best players in the world play on the PGA Tour, so do I.” According to court documents, by then DeChambeau had already signed with LIV Golf. And he was not alone.

According to the lawsuit, DeChambeau was “forced to publicly profess his loyalty to the PGA Tour.” How exactly? This is something we look forward to learning in other procedures. Notably, DeChambeau was also reportedly sanctioned by the PGA Tour for “talking to other Tour members about the positive experience he had with LIV Golf.”

5. All quotes count!

For golf fans who have criticized Monahan for not speaking or acting outspoken enough, just know that anything he has said or will say is considered fodder for this lawsuit. Look no further than quotes from Rory McIlroy in 2019, long before some of the complainers were well-known players, who say the European Tour is a “stepping stone” to the PGA Tour. These words are included in an argument for the dominance of the PGA Tour in the market. The same goes for Paul McGinley’s quotes from earlier this year, simply in response to Mickelson’s comments. And quotes from Mickelson on Player Impact program funds. And from Joel Dahmen and Jason Kokrak and Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth…

All quotes matter, friends! Davis Love III’s impassioned explanation of a boycott, which was delivered this week, was also cited in the complaint. Of all the quotes that matter, the words Monahan has spoken at player meetings at Torrey Pines or the Honda Classic or the Genesis Invitational over the past three years will be used frequently by LIV 11’s legal representation.

6. The role of Augusta National?

Just because this lawsuit involves LIV Golfers v. PGA Tour, Inc. does not mean that information about other governing bodies will be kept confidential. In fact, quite the opposite. Augusta National, always private in its dealings, was reportedly implicated in a variety of ways.

According to the complaint, Augusta National had representatives present at an “emergency meeting” of the PGA Tour Advisory Board, which took place immediately after the initial announcement of LIV Golf’s first course. The filing alleges that Fred Ridley himself “personally instructed a number of 2022 Masters entrants not to play in the LIV Golf Invitational Series.” The lawsuit also claims that Ridley declined a request from Greg Norman to meet to discuss LIV’s business model. (For what it’s worth, Ridley told the 2022 Masters that Augusta National “didn’t disinvite” Mickelson from this year’s tournament.)

7. “Illegal” Alliance

The PGA Tour may be the defendant, but the entire ecosystem of men’s professional golf is included in the complaint, primarily through alleged coercion. The PGA Tour’s “strategic alliance” with the DP World Tour is repeatedly called “unlawful” in the lawsuit, and is referenced as a “collective boycott” of the plaintiffs and their right to “practice their profession”.

The complaint refers to a July 2021 meeting in Malta where DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley met with LIV Golf sponsors. A detailed analysis of the meeting, which was reported by Bunkeredsays Pelley saw the biggest barrier to a “newcomer” entering the professional golf ecosystem was the “mighty powerhouse” of the PGA Tour and its relationship with the DP World Tour.

8. The previous decade of Tour performance will be analyzed

The plaintiffs seem keen to compare their earning power via the PGA Tour to professional athletes in other sports. For example, the average salary increases for NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL players from 2014 to 2019 are all cited in the lawsuit. For the NFL, it’s 15%, a bigger increase than any other major professional sport. For plaintiffs like Mickelson, the salary increases received are the average increases in the Tour’s purse, which have increased by 2.5% per year, on average.

Much the same is said for PGA Tour popularity and ratings. Quoted in the suit is the following:

“Of the 27 PGA Tour tournaments for which data is available, 16 tournaments (nearly 60%) had viewership in 2019 below the five-year average for that tournament.” How is this data used? Arguing that proceeds from the broadcast event tour had become “stale.” Remember how “all quotes count” from above? Rickie Fowler’s comments about the Tour product inspiring more opportunities, which he made at the PGA Championship in May, are also cited in the lawsuit.

9. We will learn that no one plays fair

There have been numerous moves made by the PGA Tour, alleged by plaintiffs in the case, that make him look like a bully. The suit calls the PGA Tour’s moves “a bearhug”, implying that he threatened the European Tour in various ways to usher in the strategic alliance. The lawsuits also claim that the PGA Tour’s extensive relationships with other governing bodies were used to prevent the launch of LIV Golf. There are allegations that the Tour has threatened to withhold pensions from defaulting members.

How true are all of these statements? That remains to be seen. But LIV airs them all out in the open. If any or all of them are true, it will show that the PGA Tour wasn’t playing fair with just about everything they could exploit against the upstart league. If some of the more egregious claims turn out to be false, it will appear that the plaintiffs were playing an unfair game in the courtroom.

10. “Ecosystem” can mean many things

A major sticking point between the many sides in this war for professional golf is the ecosystem. This word is printed 30 different times in the trial. This refers to the world of professional golf as it existed in, say, June 2019. The PGA Tour, Korn Ferry Tour, DP World Tour, Asian Tour, PGA Tour Canada, etc. They all make up the ecosystem. .

Leaders of the PGA Tour and DP World Tour have long claimed they would have welcomed LIV Golf or the Premier Golf League, as long as they worked within the current ecosystem.

But the ecosystem is not limited to circuits. The ecosystem, as defined by the plaintiffs, includes sponsors, media organizations, financiers, coaches, agents, etc. Plaintiffs argue that the PGA Tour’s various pressures against LIV Golf have spread throughout the ecosystem, creating an inhospitable participating ecosystem. See: “group boycott” mentioned above. One example included is the R&A revoking the Open Championship exemption granted to the Asian Tour Order of Merit winner because the Tour had accepted sponsorship from LIV Golf Investments.

11. A reminder: this is just the beginning

Where the Plaintiff(s) files a lawsuit against a Defendant(s), the Original Complaint is only the Original Complaint. It is littered with alleged information, many of which are surely accurate but not necessarily all of them. The legal process will take a long time, with built-in time for answers, discovery, etc. The PGA Tour will respond. He already did, in a note to players on Wednesday afternoon. He will respond legally, too, with a lot of information of his own. As Norman said in one of his scathing letters: “Commissioner, this is just the beginning. It’s definitely not the end.”

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