Federal Circuit Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman has ruled against three LIV Tour golfers that were seeking a temporary restraining order to play in the FedEx Cup Playoffs starting on Thursday at TPC Southland in Memphis, Tennessee.
Talor Gooch, Matt Jones, and Hudson Swafford were all PGA TOUR members that are now suspended for joining the LIV Tour, the controversial startup league backed by the Saudi Arabian governments sovereign wealth fund. The trio earned enough points during the 2021-22 PGA TOUR season to be in the Top 125, which would have qualified them for the Playoffs except for their participation with LIV.
Judge Freeman found the TRO filing was timely, and that the players have a reasonable expectation of winning. But the players LIV contracts were “based upon the players calculation of what they would be leaving behind” in denying the petition.
While Judge Freeman said there was “superficial appeal” to the LIV Tour’s antitrust arguments, they didn’t reach the high standard needed to invoke a temporary restraining order in the case. One of those standards was “irreparable harm,” which despite the $18 million available for the first place finisher at the TOUR Championship to conclude the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the belief was that could be handled later if the plaintiffs were successful on the merits of their larger case.
This was the first salvo in what should be extended litigation between LIV and the PGA TOUR, as an antitrust suit has been filed saying the dominant professional golf league in the world since 1968 has used non-competitive practices.
The FedEx St. Jude Championship, the first round of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, will begin on Thursday with 122 players thanks to three injuries and withdrawals. Gooch, Jones, and Swafford will not be participating.