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PGA Tour's lawsuit response: LIV Golf players 'fabricating an emergency' to get into playoffs

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In a scathing response to a legal challenge that has been months in the making, the PGA Tour fired back at a group of players seeking to circumvent their suspensions for playing the Saudi-backed LIV Golf events and participate in this week’s FedEx St. Jude Championship, the first of three playoff events.

The response to last week’s antitrust lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for California’s Northern District, was filed Monday. The hearing for the temporary restraining order is scheduled for Tuesday in San Jose, California, at 1 p.m. PT. The players will not attend the hearing.

“The [temporary restraining order] plaintiffs have waited nearly two months to seek relief from the court, fabricating an ‘emergency’ they now maintain requires immediate action,” the statement from the Tour read.

PGA Tour responds to lawsuit from LIV Golf players

PGA Tour responds to lawsuit from LIV Golf players

"Despite knowing full 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. TRO Plaintiffs now run into Court seeking a mandatory injunction to force their way into the Tour’s season-ending FedExCup Playoffs, an action that would harm all Tour members that follow the rules. The antitrust laws do not allow Plaintiffs to have their cake and eat it too."

The antitrust lawsuit includes 11 suspended players, most notably Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, but only three of those players – Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford – are seeking a temporary restraining order from the court to play the FedExCup Playoffs.

The counter to the lawsuit also claims players knew since June 9 that their participation in LIV Golf events would result in suspensions, which extend nearly two years, according to the lawsuit. The Tour’s motion also points out that not every suspended player is pushing to play in the postseason.

“In a telling sign, 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 FedExCup but have not asked the court for the extraordinary relief sought through this motion,” the response read.

The 105-page lawsuit claims “the Tour flexed its incumbent monopolistic power, including by enforcing its unlawful player restrictions that deny players the ability to sell their services to others, imposing lengthy suspensions on players for merely exercising their right as independent contractors.”

“The players’ participation in the LIV league is in violation of the PGA Tour’s [handbook],” Elliot Peters, the lead counsel for the Tour in this case, said 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.”

The first playoff event begins Thursday in Memphis.