It was a bad day for LIV Golf.
Not only did the Saudi-backed league lose its first court battle with the PGA Tour Tuesday, but it was exposed for not being completely truthful about rumors that some of the prize money is drawn from players' contracts, according to a lawyer.
A district court judge in San Jose, Calif., ruled against Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford, three LIV golfers challenging the PGA Tour's decision to not allow them to play in the FedEx Cup playoffs that start Thursday with the St. Jude Championship in Memphis.
Players were seeking a temporary restraining order, claiming "irreparable harm" for not being allowed to compete in the playoffs, arguing any lost income would be irretrievably lost.
“I do think irreparable harm is a problem for you,” Judge Beth Labson Freeman told LIV attorney Robert Walters shortly before announcing her decision, citing the money available by playing LIV. Contracts ranging from tens of millions to up to a reported $200 million have been signed by LIV golfers.
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During LIV's first U.S. event outside of Portland in early July, players were asked about rumors that prize money counted against their hefty contracts. The uncomfortable, contentious exchange was followed by an explanation from a LIV representative who said prize purses are in addition to the contracts and there is no draw on any finances.
During testimony Tuesday, one lawyer said the money won during LIV Golf events is "recouped against the LIV contracts.” He added every contract is different.
One legal win for the Tour does not mean LIV is defeated and certainly will not dissuade or slow down the series that will have unlimited finances from Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund.
On Tuesday, reports that Open champion Cameron Smith from Australia was leaving the Tour to join LIV were confirmed by another Aussie golfer, Cameron Percy. Smith evaded questions Tuesday about defecting but did not deny he would be going.
"If there's something I need to say regarding the PGA Tour or LIV, it will come from Cameron Smith, not Cameron Percy," said Smith, ranked No. 1 in the world. "I'm a man of my word and whenever you guys need to know anything, it'll be said by me."
Still, if we are keeping score it's PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan 1, LIV CEO Greg Norman 0.
"I feel strongly that this was the proper and fair decision," PGA Tour pro Kevin Streelman told Golf Channel. "Clearly, none of these players have 'suffered' any harm by signing massive contracts with LIV. The judge saw right through that argument."
LIV Golf released a statement following the decision:
"We're disappointed that Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones won't be allowed to play golf. No one gains by banning golfers from playing."
Many believed the plaintiffs would receive a TRO and be allowed to participate in the playoff. Now some wonder if the ruling could be a harbinger of things to come.
Gooch, Jones and Swafford are among the 10 LIV players, including Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, who filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour in federal court last week. Carlos Ortiz withdrew from the lawsuit on Tuesday.
Tuesday's ruling was very narrow compared to what is ahead with the larger antitrust suit. That full trial may not start for at least another year and may not be concluded until sometime in 2024.
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But Tuesday's ruling could embolden those players who have opted to stick with the PGA Tour. Some started speaking out following the filing of the antitrust lawsuit and more appear to be joining the chorus.
"Those guys kind of made their decision to go join another tour and they broke the rules and regulations of our tour and now they're trying to sue us, which is definitely a bit frustrating," Scottie Scheffler said Tuesday while preparing for the St. Jude Championship.
"I heard that was going to happen and I know some guys aren't surprised to see it, but I definitely am surprised to see some guys now suing us."
LIV golfers not welcome back on PGA Tour
Steelman told Golf Channel Tuesday that players who have joined LIV will not be welcome back to the Tour.
"They're not welcome out here from our end," he said. "What this lawsuit is, it's a lawsuit against the PGA Tour. They're suing us. ... we take it personally."
Gooch is No. 20 in the FedEx Cup playoffs, Jones No. 65 and Swafford No. 67. They are among nine LIV golfers who qualified for the playoff by finishing in the top 125. The others, including Jupiter's Brooks Koepka (No. 108) were not involved in the antitrust suit asking to play in the tournament.
All three were on the initial LIV Golf field announced May 31 and were suspended June 9 when Monahan announced any player competing in a LIV Golf event would not be allowed to play on the PGA Tour.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Judge's decision not to lift ban on LIV Golf defectors an early loss