By Joel Beall
Given the drastic schedule changes and dramatic purse and bonus increases coming to the PGA Tour, there’s a chance players who moved to LIV Golf may reconsider their choices and want to go back. But on Wednesday at the Tour Championship, commissioner Jay Monahan had a clear, blunt response to those wishing for a return.
After announcing enhancements to the tour and its schedule to improve the product while incentivising players to stay rather than jump to the new circuit, Monahan was asked if he would lift the suspension levied on the individuals who have joined LIV and welcome them back. Monahan wasted no time in his answer.
“No,” Monahan said. “They’ve joined the LIV Golf Series, and they’ve made that commitment. For most of them, they’ve made multiyear commitments.
“As I’ve been clear throughout, every player has a choice, and I respect their choice, but they’ve made it. We’ve made ours. We’re going to continue to focus on the things that we control and get stronger and stronger. I think they understand that.”
LIV Golf members have been issued suspensions for playing without a conflicting-event release from the tour. Earlier this month Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and other LIV Golf players filed an antitrust claim against the tour, challenging their suspensions by the tour for jumping to the LIV circuit. “The purpose of this action is to strike down the PGA Tour’s anticompetitive rules and practises that prevent these independent-contractor golfers from playing when and where they choose,” the complaint alleges.
While Monahan and the tour have not publicly announced the length of suspensions for those who have left, details have emerged thanks to the lawsuit. Mickelson, for example, was already suspended for two months before playing at the inaugural LIV Golf competition for attempting to recruit players, with the tour adding a year to his suspension for playing in the LIV Golf London event and another year added for appearing in a LIV Golf Portland tournament.
In wrapping up Wednesday’s press conference Monahan was asked, eventually, if there is any channel for LIV Golf players to rejoin the tour.
“As it relates to any of the scenarios for LIV players and coming back, I’ll remind you that we’re in a lawsuit,” Monahan said. “They’ve sued us. I think talking about any hypotheticals at this point doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Last week US District Judge Beth L Freeman set a tentative date for summary judgment on the antirust claim for July 23, 2023. Should it proceed, a trial date is expected to begin on January 8, 2024.
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