Phil Mickelson is among 11 LIV Golf competitors who sued the PGA Tour to overturn suspensions and return to play in the U.S.-based competition. Photo by Peter Foley/UPI | License Photo
MIAMI, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Phil Mickelson and 10 other LIV Golf competitors filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour, attempting to overturn suspensions and seeking allowance to participate in PGA Tour events, case filings show.
The golfers filed the lawsuit Wednesday in the U.S. District Court of Northern California. Bryson DeChambeau, Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford, Matt Jones, Abraham Ancer, Carlos Ortiz, Ian Poulter, Pat Perez, Jason Kokrak and Peter Uihlein are the other plaintiffs.
"The players are right to have brought this action to challenge the PGA's anti-competitive rules and to vindicate their rights as independent contractors to play where and when they choose," LIV Golf said in a statement. "Despite the PGA Tour's effort to stifle competition, we think golfers should be allowed to play golf."
Gooch, Swafford and Jones also are seeking a temporary restraining order for what the lawsuit contends are "impermissible suspensions" from the FedEx Cup playoffs. That order, if granted, would allow them to join the field for the lucrative multi-tournament, season-ending competition.
A hearing for the for the restraining order is set for Tuesday in San Jose, Calif.
LIV Golf, funded by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, has been surrounded by controversy since its launch earlier this year, due to criticisms of the country's human rights record and players' departures from the PGA Tour, which caused a rift between golfers.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced in June that defectors who choose to compete in the Saudi-funded LIV Golf Invitational Series would be suspended from PGA Tour play.
Several LIV Golf competitors opted to give up their PGA Tour membership, which removed them from the FedEx Cup standings. The 11 plaintiffs did not resign from the PGA Tour.
"As part of its carefully orchestrated plan to defeat competition, the Tour has threatened lifetime bans on players who play in even a single LIV Golf event," the lawsuit says.
"It has backed up these threats by imposing unprecedented suspensions on players (including the plaintiffs) that threaten irreparable harm to the players and their ability to pursue their profession."
The lawsuit also contends that the PGA Tour "threatened sponsors, vendors and agents to coerce players to abandon opportunities to play in LIV Golf events." It also reveals that Mickelson was suspended by the PGA Tour on March 22 for "attempting to recruit players to join" LIV Golf.
Mickelson allegedly appealed that two-month suspension and applied for reinstatement at its conclusion, but was denied in both instances. He is not allowed to make another application for reinstatement until March 31, 2024, the lawsuit states.
Monahan sent a memo Wednesday to PGA Tour members, vowing to defend the golf league in the lawsuit.
"We have been preparing to protect our membership and contest this latest attempt to disrupt our tour, and you should be confident in the legal merits of our position," Monahan wrote.
Monahan also called the lawsuit an attempt by the players to use the PGA Tour platform to "promote themselves and to freeride on [members'] benefits and efforts."
"To allow re-entry into our events compromises the Tour and the competition, to the detriment of our organization, our players, our partners and our fans," Monahan wrote.
"The lawsuit they have filed somehow expects us to believe the opposite, which is why we intend to make our case clearly and vigorously. Let me be clear: We will continue to defend the members who abide by the regulations written by and for the players."
The PGA Tour announced in July that it was under investigation by the Department of Justice's antitrust division for anti-competitive practices.
LIV Golf Bedminster, the third tournament of the new series, was held last weekend in Bedminster, N.J. The controversial series will continue with LIV Golf Boston from Sept. 2 to 4 at The International Golf Club in Bolton, Mass.
The PGA Tour schedule will continue with the Wyndham Championship from Thursday through Sunday in Greensboro, N.C. The FedEx St. Jude Championship, the first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs, will tee off Aug. 11 in Memphis.
The playoffs will continue with the BMW Championship from Aug. 18 to 21 in Wilmington, Del. The Tour Championship will run from Aug. 25 to 28 at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
Swedish Golfer Henrik Stenson (C) raises the trophy on the podium after winning the individual competition at the LIV Golf invitational at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., on July 31. Photo by Peter Foley/UPI | License Photo