With the first leg of the PGA Tour's postseason beginning this Thursday at the St. Jude Championship in Memphis, Tennessee, three members of the LIV Golf Invitational Series are quickly seeking relief to participate in the 2022 FedEx Cup Playoffs. Plaintiffs Talor Gooch, Matt Jones, and Hudson Swafford all accepted deals to join LIV Golf in recent months -- but argue they have earned the right to play in the FedEx Cup Playoffs through strong past performances on the PGA Tour.
On Monday morning, the PGA Tour asked a federal judge to deny a temporary restraining order to the three suspended members, calling the lawsuit "legally baseless" and that the players "can't have their cake and eat it too."
"Despite knowing [fully] well that they would breach Tour regulations and be suspended for doing so, plaintiffs have joined competing golf league LIV Golf, which has paid them tens and hundreds of millions of dollars in guaranteed money supplied by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund to procure their breaches," the motion said. "Plaintiffs now run into court seeking a mandatory injunction to force their way into the Tour's season-ending FedEx Cup Playoffs, an action that would harm all Tour members that follow the rules."
The Battle in Court
Gooch, Jones, and Swafford, along with Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, and six others, filed a 106-page antitrust lawsuit together against the PGA Tour last week. However, Gooch, Jones, and Swafford are the only LIV members seeking a temporary restraining order to gain entry into the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
Just last month, Ian Poulter, Adrian Otaegui, and Justin Harding were able to tee it up at the Scottish Open through a temporary restraining order despite originally being suspended from the tournament.
In response to the temporary restraining order, the PGA Tour's lawyers made sure to point out that the three plaintiffs waited nearly two months to seek relief for the FedEx Cup Playoffs. In fact, the lawyers claim that Gooch, Jones, and Swafford are "fabricating an 'emergency' they now maintain requires action."
"Their ineligibility for Tour events was foreseeable when they accepted millions from LIV to breach their agreements with the TOUR, and they knew for a fact that they were suspended on June 9. The harm they now allege from their suspensions is 100% economic and capable of redress with money damages."
A Partial Plaintiff Play
The PGA Tour's lawyers also mentioned that several other members of LIV Golf are not seeking the same action as Gooch, Jones, and Swafford.
"Indeed, several other LIV players including four other Plaintiffs in this case recognize there is no emergency or irreparable harm; they too have qualified to play in the FedEx Cup but have not asked the Court for the extraordinary relief sought through this motion. The Court should use its equitable powers to redress real emergencies, not engineered ones by parties who knowingly accepted multi-million-dollar payouts to place themselves in the situation they are in."
For this week's FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind, the top 125 players in the year-long FedEx Cup standings are eligible for the field. Despite having jumped ship to LIV Golf, Gooch ranks 20th in the standings, Jones ranks 65th, and Swafford ranks 67th.
A hearing will occur on Tuesday, August 9 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to examine the players' motion for a temporary restraining order.