The PGA Tour said in a response filed Monday to a temporary restraining order asking that three former members be allowed to compete in the FedEx Cup playoffs that the players knew "full well" their decision to join the LIV Golf Series would be against Tour regulations and they would be suspended.
The suit is scheduled to be heard at 4 p.m. Tuesday in the U.S. District Court of Northern California.
Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones would have qualified for the playoffs based on the points they had accumulated at the time of their suspension on June 9 after they played in their first LIV Golf event. They filed a TRO last week to be allowed to compete in this week's first playoff event, the FedEx St. Jude Championship in Memphis.
"The TRO Plaintiffs have waited nearly two months to seek relief from the Court, fabricating an 'emergency' they now maintain requires immediate action," the Tour said in a statement. "PGA Tour members and their agents were communicated with for more than year prior to the launch of the LIV Golf, and were made aware that participation would constitute a breach of contract and of the Tour’s rules ... TRO Plaintiffs have known since June 9 — and indeed, earlier — that they would violate the Tour’s Regulations and forfeit their ability to play in the FedExCup Playoffs in exchange for accepting massive payments from LIV Golf."
An antitrust lawsuit also was filed by 11 former PGA Tour players now on the LIV Series, including Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and Ian Poulter.
The Tour also deflected a laundry list of complaints by LIV Series officials in pointing out that the Tour is a membership organization "that works on behalf of and for the benefit of its member players, unlike other sports governing bodies (like the NFL or NBA)," and that members sign annual contracts that give exclusive media rights to the Tour, which then results in more lucrative broadcast and merchandise deals that benefit all Tour members.
"By enabling professional golfers to pool their media rights, the Tour has driven media and sponsorship money into the sport for the benefit of all Tour members," the statement said.
The Tour also said 98 percent of its revenue ($916 million in 2021) goes to players, tournaments and charities. The Tour said $770 million of that goes to purses, bonus programs and the retirement plan, and $200 million to player retirement plan earnings.
As part of that contract, members agree that they will not play ("and thereby contribute their media rights to") non-Tour golf events held in North American that conflict with PGA Tour events.
Two of the LIV Golf series events have been in America, with events remaining in Boston, Chicago and Miami.
The Tour's response claims that Gooch, Swafford and Jones have been unable to establish their claims "based on any fair interpretation of admissible evidence."
"The mischaracterizations, half-truths, and falsehoods are so numerous in Plaintiffs’ brief that the Tour couldn’t respond to all of them," the statement said. "Instead [the Tour] had to create a separate chart identifying an exemplary set."
“The players’ participation in the LIV league is in violation of the PGA Tour’s Handbook and Tournament Regulations,” said Elliot Peters of Keker, Van Nest & Peters, lead counsel representing the PGA Tour in the dispute, in a statement. “For enormous sums of cash supplied by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, Plaintiffs willfully breached their agreements with the PGA Tour. The players’ purported harm is entirely self-induced. We will litigate this case vigorously to preserve the reputation of the PGA Tour and protect the benefits it offers to players.”
Contact Garry Smits at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: PGA Tour fires back: TRO plaintiffs knew they would be suspended for joining LIV Golf