ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – The PGA Tour is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for potential anticompetitive behavior in response to the threat from the LIV Golf Invitational Series, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
As several high-profile players including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau have joined the upstart endeavor that is poised to become a league next year, the PGA Tour and commissioner Jay Monahan issued indefinite suspensions to its members who have taken part in the first two events.
Several players, including Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Patrick Reed, have resigned their membership, which precludes them from competing.
According to the newspaper, the DOJ’s antitrust division has contacted players’ agents to discuss the PGA Tour’s bylaws as well as its recent penalties in reaction to LIV Golf.
Mark Steinberg, Tiger Woods’ agent and a partner in the Excel Sports Management agency, said Monday at St. Andrews, site of this week’s British Open, that his firm has been contacted but that he has had no discussions with the DOJ. He was not aware of the details in the WSJ story.
In the early 1990s, the Federal Trade Commission looked into the Tour’s practices of requiring releases to play in events not on the PGA Tour as well as seeking the same permission for playing golf in televised events outside of the PGA Tour.
FTC investigators determined in 1994 that both rules broke anti-trust laws. But no action was ever taken. That same year, Greg Norman had tried launch to a World Golf Tour that eventually never got started. Norman is the CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf
“This was not unexpected,’’ the PGA Tour said in a statement. “ We went through this in 1994 and we are confident in a similar outcome.’’
LIV Golf has been a big story in golf in 2022 as it first sought to launch a league this year, then retreated in the aftermath of considerable backlash. It then regrouped and put together a series of eight events, two of which have already been played, with another in New Jersey in two weeks followed by five more this year – two more to be played overseas.
LIV Golf is being financed by the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia. Many players have faced significant criticism for being involved due to the country’s poor human rights record.
Norman has said all along he had hoped to work with the PGA Tour to allow LIV players to compete on both circuits; Monahan made it clear that would not be possible.
The PGA Tour requires a minimum of 15 events to be a member; next year, LIV Golf will go to a 14-tournament schedule.
Earlier this year, the PGA Tour announced a strengthened relationship with the DP World Tour that will allow for more access to the PGA Tour through performance. It has in recent years started a program from graduating college golfers to have access to its development circuit, the Korn Ferry Tour. The Tour also said it would provide direct access to the PGA Tour through its Korn Ferry Tour qualifying tournament.
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