PGA Tour Is Being Investigated Over Antitrust Concerns

By Pamela Glass | Friday, 15 July 2022 05:15
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The U.S. Justice Department is examining whether the PGA Tour violated antitrust law in fending off the rival LIV Golf circuit, supported by Saudi Arabia.

The PGA Tour approved the probe, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The investigation, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, comes after the tour last month indefinitely suspended 17 players, including major championship winners Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, after they chose to compete in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tournament.

"This was not unexpected. We went through this in 1994 and we are confident in a similar outcome," a PGA Tour spokesman said in an email statement citing an investigation decades ago by the Federal Trade Commission.

The Journal reported that the government had reached out to players' agents about PGA Tour bylaws that curb players' capacity to participate in rival golf events.

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The $255 million LIV series is being bankrolled by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), which critics say is a vehicle for the country to improve its image in the face of criticism of its human rights record.

LIV has lured away major winners including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau with huge sums of money, while others like Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy have said they plan to stay with the PGA and DP World tours.

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Mickelson, whose deal with LIV is reportedly worth about $200 million, has been slammed for aligning with the new league despite the Saudi government’s history of human rights abuses, including its involvement in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

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The Journal said that the PGA Tour has instructed golfers who wanted to play in LIV competitions to ask for releases, and has suspended some who failed to do so.

“They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates,” Mickelson said in February.

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When the tour announced the ousting of the 17 players in a June memo to members, it said the players had made their choices “for their own financial-based reasons” but that they can’t demand the same membership benefits, opportunities, and platform.

“That expectation disrespects you, our fans and our partners,” the memo said.

A representative for LIV Golf refused to comment. On its website, LIV Golf says its mission is to “modernize and supercharge” golf through “expanded opportunities for both players and fans alike.”

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