fbpx
LIV Golf PGA Tour

Cameron Smith reportedly heading to LIV Golf. Here’s why the PGA Tour isn’t suspending him for the FedEx Cup

By Joel Beall
Cameron Smith, the No. 2 player in the world after his victory at last month’s Open Championship, reportedly is set to leave the PGA Tour for LIV Golf.

If it happens, it arguably would be the tour’s biggest loss to the new circuit.

Compounding the matter is the fact the 28-year-old Australian is also the No. 2 player in the FedEx Cup standings and opened the tour’s three-tournament playoffs this week in Memphis with a 67 at the FedEx St Jude Championship. That puts Smith — who also won the tour’s flagship event, the Players Championship, in March — in great position to win the tour’s season-long competition and its $18 million reward, then head immediately to the tour’s new rival. The optics, to put it lightly, are less than ideal from the PGA Tour’s perspective.

Tour officials see the reports you see and have most definitely heard the Aussie’s non-denials of said reports, raising the question among some fans: Why hasn’t Smith been suspended from the playoffs?

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan had long promised that any tour member who competes in a tournament on a rival league without a conflicting-event release would face disciplinary measures from the tour. And he has kept his word, suspending those who have moved to LIV Golf. But until now, those suspensions haven’t become official until players have actually hit a shot in LIV competition, and with reason, explains attorney Tom Allen.

“Playing in a conflicting event seems a little more concrete,” says Allen, who practises in government services, litigation and labour and employment areas, regarding the PGA Tour. “It is similar to making out a conspiracy: People can talk about doing certain things, but once they take a physical action or step in favour of that alleged conspiracy, they have sealed their fate.”

Cameron Smith. Harry How

One of the provisions in the PGA Tour Player Handbook and Tournament Regulations is that each PGA Tour member acknowledges the commissioner, the tour’s policy board and the appeals committee have the authority to permanently ban a member from playing in tour co-sponsored, approved or coordinated tournaments if the member violates its regulations. The handbook also states that a player ceases to be a member of the PGA Tour if, in the judgment of the policy board, the member commits a serious breach of the Tournament Regulations, the PGA Tour’s Code of Ethics or otherwise conducts himself in a manner unbecoming of a professional golfer.

According to the antitrust lawsuit filed by 11 LIV golfers against the PGA Tour last week, Phil Mickelson was suspended by the tour in March for attempting to recruit players to LIV. There are many things that can trigger the conduct unbecoming clause, such as poor behaviour, drug use or badmouthing the tour, other players, the commissioner or its sponsors. Very publicly courting a rival tour at a time when the spotlight on the tour is at its brightest could fall under this umbrella.

To date, however, Mickelson is the only known instance in which the tour has suspended a golfer going to LIV before the golfer played in a LIV event. And that precedent appears to be an important one for the PGA Tour moving forward, from a legal perspective.

If Smith has already signed a contract with LIV Golf, he could be susceptible to discipline given the provisions in the player handbook. Yet “could” is the operative word; the tour doesn’t have latitude to discipline anyone for anything less than certainty. As multiple attorneys convey, one wrong move could have massive consequences in the tour’s legal battle with LIV Golf. If something isn’t ironclad, the tour will likely have to take the conservative route.

“I am sure both LIV and the player are not sharing their contracts voluntarily, and the PGA Tour doesn’t want to act so severely based solely on rumour,” Allen says. “So without a copy of the player’s contract, or an admission or announcement from the player, or an announcement from LIV, the PGA Tour does not have solid evidence that the player has in fact signed with LIV. That changes once hard evidence in hand: LIV announces it, the player announces it, etc.”

The conservative route, the tour believes, is the way to avoid a litigation disaster.

With Smith, however, that long-term view could lead to some short-term awkwardness.

You may also like:
Rickie Fowler in the swing with new caddie at FedEx Cup Playoffs
Ferguson and Doherty lead the way in Northern Ireland tri-sanctioned event
LIV Golf’s Scott Vincent rolling again in Singapore
Patrick Reed expects more LIV Golfers to compete on Asian Tour
Reed was ‘on the fence’ but loving team life on LIV Golf
LIV Golfers take in the sights ahead of International Series Singapore
Key stories to follow at FedEx Cup Playoffs

Carlos Ortiz withdraws from LIV Golf lawsuit
Cameron Smith tight-lipped over LIV Golf reports
PGA Tour wins court battle over LIV Golf to prevent banned players from competing in FedEx Cup
Youngster gets Aramco Team Series spot
WATCH: Highlights of the AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield
Relief for Buhai at AIG Women’s Open
R&A increases Women’s Open purse to 7.3 million
Get the August 2022 edition of Golf Digest Middle East FREE here in English and Arabic
Joh Rahm welcome’s second son to family ahead of FedEx Cup Playoffs

’17 holes to go’: Rory and JT on LIV Golf/PGA Tour legal saga
Matsuyama withdraws from first FedEx Cup event
The mystery behind Dustin Johnson’s missing FedEx Cup plaque
PGA looks to the future with projected earnings
PGA Tour says LIV Golf players ‘fabricating an emergency’
LIV Golf numbers grow on Asian Tour
Zalatoris to play 40th anniversary Nedbank Challenge
Gary Player at odds with son once again

15 fascinating PGA Tour FedEx Cup stats
LOOK: Big names who just lost their PGA Tour card
WATCH: An emotional Nick Faldo says goodbye

 

Golf Digest Middle East

Launched in 2008, Golf Digest Middle East is the #1 golf magazine in the region, featuring local content and exclusive articles from the world's leading professionals

Facebook Comments

Check Also

Cameron Smith’s fifth win of 2022 was the least surprising but most emotional

Cameron Smith’s fifth win of 2022 was the least surprising but most emotional

Advertisement

Advertisement