Rory McIlroy said he was pleased by the federal judge’s ruling that denied the suspended players’ motion to compete in the FedExCup Playoffs, saying that the Tour and the players were spared a “sideshow” over the next few weeks.
“From my vantage point, common sense prevailed, and I thought it was the right decision,” McIlroy told reporters Wednesday at the FedEx St. Jude Championship, the first of three playoff events.
“Now that that has happened, I think it just lets us focus on the important stuff, which is the golf, and we can all move forward and not have that sideshow going on for the next few weeks, which is nice.”
A federal judge in California on Tuesday denied a temporary restraining order for three players – Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford – who were seeking to compete in the Tour’s lucrative postseason, with $75 million in bonus money on offer. Gooch, in particular, was affected by the ruling; at No. 20 in points, he was in strong position to qualify for the 30-man Tour Championship, which would have earned him exemptions into three of the four majors in 2023.
A judge, however, sided with the Tour, determining that the lawyers for the players did not establish irreparable harm because the players had already calculated the potential losses before defecting to LIV Golf for significant signing bonuses.
Last week, 11 players (now 10), including Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, filed an antitrust lawsuit against the Tour, challenging their suspensions and claiming that the Tour was using monopolistic power to crush its opposition. Only three players were part of the separate motion, and their desire to still play in the postseason drew the ire of some Tour members.
“Guys are going to make their own decisions that they feel is best for them and that’s totally fine. Again, I don’t begrudge anyone for going over to play LIV or taking guaranteed money. If that’s your prerogative and what you want to do, totally fine,” said McIlroy, who added that he had a "little more respect" for the players who left for LIV but didn't join the lawsuit. “Where the resentment comes from the membership of this tour is the fact that they want to try to get their way back in here with no consequences, and anyone that’s read the PGA Tour handbook or abided by the rules and regulations, that would feel very unfair to them.”
Added Justin Thomas: “You can have your cake, but you don’t need to eat it, too. And they got their fair share of a large, large amount of cake, and go eat it on your own means. You don’t need to bring it onto our tour.”
The judge’s ruling – and the antitrust lawsuit not slated to begin until August 2023, at the earliest – means that the Tour should be able to stage its three-event series finale without any lingering legal drama.
“Again, there’s such a long way to go,” McIlroy said. “It’s like you birdied the first hole, but you’ve still got 17 holes to go. It was a good day for the Tour and for the majority of the membership.”