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U.S. Department of Justice officials are investigating the U.S. PGA Tour for possible anti-competitive behavior regarding the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
The report comes three days before the start of the last major tournament of the year, the British Open in St Andrews, where LIV golfers will be allowed to compete for the Claret Jug.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the report, but Golf Channel and Golf Digest reported the PGA Tour confirmed the investigation.
American stars Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka are among those who have defected to newly promoted LIV Golf, which has the richest purses in the US with $25 million and 54-hole events rather than the usual 72 of golf history offers.
The US PGA Tour responded by indefinitely suspending players who competed in LIV Golf’s first two events, 17 players last month in England and seven others earlier this month in the United States.
Players’ agents have received inquiries from investigators with the Department of Justice’s antitrust agency regarding the US PGA Tour’s bylaws, which regulate player participation at other golf events, and the PGA’s recent actions regarding LIV golf, the Journal reported.
“It wasn’t unexpected,” said a US PGA Tour spokesman. “We went through that in 1994 and we’re confident of a similar outcome.”
The US PGA Tour’s antitrust actions were investigated in 1994 when Australian star Greg Norman attempted to start a competing tour, but the investigation ended in 1995 with no action taken against the PGA Tour.
Norman is now commissioner of LIV Golf, which has sparked controversy and protests over human rights issues with the circuit’s Saudi financiers.
The 1990s investigation addressed the PGA’s ban on members from competing in competitive events, which requires clearance by the tour.
While these have been granted at times for events on other tours, no clearances have been granted for the LIV golf tournaments that conflicted with US PGA Tour events.
Some players who jumped to LIV Golf gave up PGA membership, while others, including six-time Major winner Mickelson, kept their PGA spot.
Norman has called the PGA Tour a “monopoly” and sees players as independent contractors, so there could be a legal battle over the ban and release system. The tour says it has the right to discipline members who break its rules.
The next LIV Golf event is scheduled for July 29-31 at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
This is also the final three days of the US PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit.
LIV golfers were allowed to compete from the R&A in St Andrews, as they were from the US Golf Association at the US Open last month.
But 2023 US Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson has hinted that only PGA members in good standing would join his team next year.
US Department of Justice investigates PGA over LIV golf actions: reports
Source link US Department of Justice investigates PGA over LIV golf actions: reports