Phil Mickelson and others withdraw from LIV Golf lawsuit against PGA Tour

Phil Mickelson, the face of a federal antitrust case against the PGA Tour, has withdrawn from the lawsuit, along with three other LIV Golf players.

Mickelson formally denied his claims against the PGA Tour on Tuesday morning, according to notices filed in the U.S. District Court for Northern California, along with fellow LIV golfers Talor Gooch, Ian Poulter and Hudson Swafford.

They were among 11 golfers who sued the PGA Tour on August 3, saying the Tour had hurt their careers by suspending them from PGA events and hampering LIV Golf’s efforts to launch a competitive league.

There are only three golfers left: Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Jones and Peter Uihlein. LIV Golf, the controversial Saudi-funded start-up that has turned the world of professional golf upside down, was not initially a party to the case but joined the lawsuit on August 26.

LIV Golf joins players in lawsuit, escalating feud with PGA Tour

“I am focused on the future and extremely happy to be a part of LIV, while also grateful for my time on Tour,” Mickelson said in a statement. “I am pleased that Tour players are finally being heard, respected and valued and benefiting from the changes recently implemented. With LIV’s involvement in these matters, players’ rights will be protected, and I no longer believe it I need to be part of the process.

Leaving the lawsuit at an early stage means players don’t necessarily have the same level of discovery exposure and LIV Golf emerges as the PGA Tour’s main courtroom foe as it pursues its antitrust claims. .

“Nothing has changed. The merits of the case – anti-competitive conduct by the PGA Tour – still stands and will be fully tested in court,” said Jonathan Grella, a spokesperson for LIV Golf. “And we look forward to this LIV supports the players the PGA Tour has treated so poorly, but we also recognize that to be successful we no longer need a wide range of players to be on the suit.

Two of the players who withdrew from the lawsuit on Tuesday – Gooch and Swafford – unsuccessfully tried to enter the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs seeking a temporary restraining order in the case. U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman denied their request last month, saying the players had failed to demonstrate that their exclusion from the tour’s season-ending event constituted “irreparable harm.”

“Now that we are past the PGA Tour season and LIV is involved in these important issues, there is no need for me to stay on the case,” Swafford said in a statement. “I am confident that this case will demonstrate the anti-competitive behavior of the PGA Tour.”

Four other plaintiffs in the original complaint withdrew from the lawsuit last month: Abraham Ancer, Jason Kokrak, Pat Perez and Carlos Ortiz.

The PGA Tour has denied the antitrust charges and is expected to file its formal response to LIV Golf’s amended complaint this week. The trial is currently scheduled to begin in January 2024.

The LIV Golf Invitational series will hold its sixth event next week in Bangkok. Since launching LIV earlier this year, attracting many of the PGA Tour’s biggest names with eight and even nine-figure contracts, the PGA Tour has been forced to make significant changes, increasing tournament purses, bolstering its bonus system and ensuring that its Top 20 players will participate in at least 20 events, including the four major tournaments and the FedEx Cup qualifiers.

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