The PGA Tour has struck back in the ongoing legal battle between its organization and LIV Golf. After LIV joined a lawsuit filed by 11 of its players filed this summer -- eight of whom have since removed themselves from the filing -- against the PGA Tour for alleged anticompetitive and monopolistic behavior, the PGA Tour has responded with a lawsuit of its own.
In a countersuit filed this week, the PGA Tour argues that LIV, by offering "astronomical sums of money" to golfers signed to the PGA Tour, induced those players to breach their contracts. The countersuit was filed as part of the PGA Tour's legal response to LIV's antitrust lawsuit.
The basis of the counterclaim, according to ESPN:
The counterclaim was filed as part of the PGA Tour's response to LIV Golf's federal antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour, in which LIV Golf claims the PGA Tour illegally suspended players for competing in LIV Golf tournaments and is wielding its monopoly power to squash competition.
The tour claims that LIV Golf has executed a campaign to pay its players "astronomical sums of money to induce them to breach their contracts with the Tour in an effort to use the LIV Players and the game of golf to sportswash the recent history of Saudi atrocities and to further the Saudi Public Investment Fund's Vision 2030 initiatives."
Furthermore, the PGA Tour argues that not only did LIV overstep by inducing the contract breaches, it is imposing even tighter parameters than it claims the PGA Tour has handed down. This stems from the initial hearing into whether three LIV Golf members could compete in the 2022 FedEx Cup. During those proceedings, Judge Beth L. Freeman shared an offhand remark about how it was LIV, not the PGA Tour, that was imposing itself in ways that were heavy handed and perhaps even monopolistic.
Judge: "These LIV contracts lock up these players in ways the PGA Tour never imagined. They are so restrictive." Wow.— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) August 9, 2022
Eight of the original players who filed suit against the PGA Tour have dropped out altogether, many of whom cited that LIV joining the lawsuit no longer made their presence necessary. Only Bryson DeChambeau, Peter Uihlein and Matt Jones remain listed as plaintiffs alongside LIV as an organization.
The PGA Tour maintained its claims that players breached the agreements they had as PGA Tour members.
"Through this lawsuit, LIV asks the court to invalidate these wholly legitimate provisions with the stroke of a pen after inducing the remaining player plaintiffs to violate those same regulations with hundreds of millions of dollars in Saudi money," the response read. "The player plaintiffs that have remained in the case – eight of the original eleven players have withdrawn their names from this lawsuit already – want only to enrich themselves in complete disregard of the promises they made to the Tour and its members when they joined the Tour."
It could be quite a while before this is all sorted out as trial is not set to begin until early 2024.
Rory McIlroy this week detailed how frustrating it has been to watch professional golf split along league lines over the course of the year.
"I've always said I think there is a time and a place where everyone that's involved here should sit down and try to work together," McIlroy said. "It's very hard for that to happen right now when there's two lawsuits going on.
" ... But look, I don't want a fractured game. I never have. You look at some other sports and what's happened and the game of golf is ripping itself apart right now and that's no good for anyone. It's no good for the guys on this side or the sort of traditional system, and it's no good for the guys on the other side, either. It's no good for anyone. There is a time and a place for it. I just think right now, with where everything is, it's probably not the right time.
"But saying that, I don't think we can let it go too much longer. So, I'm all for everyone sitting around the table and trying to figure something out for sure."
With lawsuits filed on both sides, there has ever been a bigger rift between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf. A future in which the two coexist at or near the top of the golf world seems more distant than ever.
"[Coexisting] impractical when you look at the fact that certain players have sued the PGA Tour, their employer has sued the PGA Tour. It's not in the cards," PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan told ESPN. "It hasn't been in the cards and it's not in the cards. I think we've been pretty consistent on that front."