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Feds probe PGA Tour for anti-competitive behavior toward LIV Golf

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The Department of Justice's antitrust division is investigating the PGA Tour in connection with trying to bar players from the LIV Golf series. File Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/01ca23530d07e21824b9bfabb2ef1ce2/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
The Department of Justice's antitrust division is investigating the PGA Tour in connection with trying to bar players from the LIV Golf series. File Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo

July 12 (UPI) -- The Department of Justice is investigating the PGA Tour for anti-competitive behavior in connection to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series, a PGA Tour spokeswoman confirmed to UPI on Tuesday.

Agents for several players told the Wall Street Journal and ESPN on Monday that they had been contacted in recent months by the Department of Justice's antitrust division about the investigation, which they said relates to discipline levied by the PGA Tour against players who joined the rival series.

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"This was not unexpected," Laura Neal, a senior vice president with the PGA Tour, said Tuesday. "We went through this in 1994 and we are confident of a similar outcome."

A spokeswoman from the Department of Justice's antitrust division said she had no comment when asked about the investigation. LIV Golf also said it had no comment about the matter.

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The Federal Trade Commission investigated the PGA Tour in 1994 in connection with its requirement for players to receive permission to play outside events and appear on other golf TV programs. The PGA Tour did not receive federal sanctions from that investigation.

Tensions continue to run high between officials and golfers from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf series. Golf fans also are split in their support for each competition's tournaments, which sometimes occur on the same days.

On Tuesday, 15-time major tournament winner Tiger Woods took aim his LIV Golf counterparts, who are suspended from the U.S.-based league for violations of PGA Tour rules.

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"The players who have chosen to go to LIV and play there, I disagree with it," Woods said at a news conference for the 2022 British Open. "What they've done is they turned their back on what has allowed them to get to this position."

Dustin Johnson, the No. 18 player in the Official World Golf Ranking, is the highest-ranked golfer to leave the PGA Tour for the breakaway series. No. 20 Brooks Koepka, No. 21 Abraham Ancer, No. 24 Louis Oosthuizen, No. 31 Kevin Na, No. 33 Bryson DeChambeau, No. 40 Talor Gooch and No. 41 Patrick Reed are among the other Top 50 LIV Golf competitors.

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Former major champions No. 68 Sergio Garcia and No. 92 Phil Mickelson also are in the LIV Golf field.

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In addition to his slight toward golf veterans, Woods indirectly cautioned younger players about their decision to join LIV Golf, which he said could result in ineligibility from majors.

"Some players have never even gotten the chance to experience it," Woods said. "They've gone right from the amateur ranks right into that organization and never really got a chance to play out here and [see] what it feels like to play a Tour schedule or to play in some big events.

"Who knows what is going to happen in the near future with world ranking points, and criteria for entering majoring champions. The governing bodies are going to have to figure that out. Some of these players may never get a chance to play in major championships.

"We don't know that for sure yet. That is up to all the major championship bodies to make that determination, but that is a possibility. ... To me, I just don't understand it."

PGA Tour legend Greg Norman, the chief executive of LIV Golf, and the rival series lured golf stars away from the PGA Tour with lucrative contracts and large tournament prize purses. DeChambeau admitted earlier this month on a podcast that he received more than $125 million to join the LIV Golf series.

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Norman criticized the PGA Tour in May for its decision to discipline players for participation in LIV Golf. He called the PGA Tour an "illegal monopoly." He also said in his statement that the PGA Tour's actions were "anti-golfer, anti-fan and anticompetitive."

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, which organizes the British Open, announced last week that it did not invite Norman to the 2022 British Open celebration of champions or the champions dinner.

The R&A did not specifically site the LIV Golf series, but said in a statement that it wanted to "ensure that the focus remains on celebrating the championship and its heritage."

Norman, 67, won the British Open in 1986 and 1993. He did not win any other major titles.

LIV Golf launched June 9 with LIV Golf Invitational Series London. LIV Golf Invitational Series Portland, the second tournament, ran from June 30 to July 2. Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace was the first two respective titles and each received $4 million first-place prizes.

The 2022 British Open will run from Thursday through Sunday at the Old Course at St. Andrews in St. Andrews, Fife in Scotland. The LIV Golf series will continue with LIV Golf Invitational Series Bedminster from July 29 to 31 at Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey.

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That tournament will occur at the same time as PGA Tour's the Rocket Mortgage Classic. That tournament will tee off July 28 and run through July 31 at the Detroit Golf Club.

Moments from the LIV Golf Invitational

South African Charl Schwartzel lifts the inaugural LIV trophy at the Centurion Club in Hemel Hempstead, England, on June 11, 2022. Schwartzel won $4 million for winning the event. Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo

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