Federal Investigators in the United States Department of Justice have now begun investigations that could potentially change the landscape of professional golf in a major way.
Taking action to sort out anti-trust allegations that have been thrown at the PGA as it battles with a new competitor, the Saudi-backed LIV tour, the Department of Justice has announced that the PGA Tour is being investigated along with the United States Golf Association and Augusta National Golf Club for alleged antitrust business practices.
As background, the basis for the anti-PGA complaints is that, to combat the massive paydays that LIV Golf offered its participants, the PGA Tour decided to ban all LIV players from any future PGA Competition in the future.
As could be predicted, this desperate move by the PGA to hold onto the best players has led to massive legal troubles for it, as some of the players and certainly the LIV Tour would prefer a more free-flowing arrangement.
But it’s not just the PGA Tour that’s implicated and having to fight off the DOJ. According to the Wall Street Journal, the DOJ is now also investigating the famed Augusta National Golf Club for its role in the potential anti-trust scheme.
Similarly, according to a spokesperson, the USGA, the group that runs the U.S. Open, has also found itself a subject of investigation and will fully comply with the DOJ as it conducts its investigation.
And while others have been drawn into the PGA’s anti-trust fight, that anti-trust battle is not the only legal battle affecting the PGA Tour. It has also been sued by both former players and the LIV Golf organization itself in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
LIV Golf, along with some of its star players who have been excluded from the PGA over their involvement with the LIV Tour, is alleging that the PGA Tour has acted unfairly to golfers who play for the Saudi-run tour in an attempt to scare PGA Tour players from joining the rival organization.
Firing back with a legal counterattack, the PGA Tour filed a countersuit. In it, it alleges that the LIV Tour is illegally interfering in the PGA Tour’s players’ contractual obligations.
Augusta National, the course that runs the famed Master’s golf tournament, has been accused of threatening to revoke their invitation to any player who joins LIV Golf. The PGA Tour denies this claim.
But, with the 2023 Masters tournament being in April, Augusta National will have plenty of time to decide what to do with the prodigal stars who wish to compete in the Major and how it will respond to the decision of many top players and rising stars to participate in the LIV Tour despite the PGA’s protestations.
It is also important to note that while this LIV lawsuit began with many players involved, including big names like Phil Mickelson and Ian Poulter, many of the players have now withdrawn their names as plaintiffs in US courts.
The reason why is likely the early legal setback suffered by those that sued and the unwillingness of players to distract themselves and waste energy and money on what could be a losing battle: in an early filing, LIV players sought to be allowed to play in the 2022 FedEx Cup Playoffs, a PGA Tour event, but lost the dispute and were barred from the playoff events.