Golf champion Phil Mickelson and 10 fellow players in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series have filed an antitrust lawsuit against the rival PGA Tour.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco by Mickelson along with Bryson DeChambeau, Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford, Matt Jones, Ian Poulter, Abraham Ancer, Carlos Ortiz, Pat Perez, Jason Kokrak, and Peter Uihlein.
This lawsuit comes shortly after the PGA Tour suspended the players in June in retaliation for participating in the new Saudi-backed tour. The allure of the LIV Series? Each tournament offers $25 million in prize money, with $20 million going directly to individual players.
Last week’s LIV Series tournament was held at former President Donald Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, N.J. Previously, the PGA announced that it would no longer hold its 2022 PGA Championship there, in response to the Jan. 6 riots.
The plaintiffs, in the suit, argue the PGA is using its enormous power against the players out of fear of competition, citing “the ability to force players into restrictive terms that foreclose them from playing in competing events and the ability to suppress player compensation below competitive levels.”
The golfers go as far as to allege the PGA’s actions have harmed their careers.
“The unlawful strategy has been both harmful to players and successful in threatening LIV Golf’s otherwise-promising launch,” the players said in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit specifically cites the PGA’s two-year suspension of Mickelson, who has 45 PGA Tour victories.
“Mickelson’s unlawful two year suspension from the PGA Tour has caused him irreparable professional harm, as well as financial, and commercial harm,” plaintiffs wrote.
The Washington Post obtained a memo sent by the PGA to its remaining players on Wednesday after the lawsuit was filed.
“Fundamentally, these suspended players — who are now Saudi Golf League employees — have walked away from the TOUR and now want back in,” it says. “With the Saudi Golf League on hiatus, they’re trying to use lawyers to force their way into competition alongside our members in good standing.”
The LIV Series has been controversial since the start. Critics have pointed to Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations and accused players on its tour of prioritizing money over principles.
Mickelson previously shared his own opinions on the Middle Eastern country.
“They’re scary motherfu–kers to get involved with,” he told author Alan Shipnuck, who is writing a biography about Mickelson.
Still, the Justice Department is already investigating whether the PGA violated antitrust laws by disciplining players who joined the rival tour.
BY ALENA BOTROS