U.S. Department of Justice investigating PGA Tour for behavior toward LIV Golf

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the PGA Tour’s handling of its players and whether they are struggling during their ongoing battle with the LIV Golf Invitational Series, a new circuit funded by the public of Saudi Arabia , has engaged in anti-competitive behavior mutual fund.

According to players’ agents contacted by DOJ officials, the investigation focuses on the PGA Tour’s actions in relation to the official world golf rankings, warnings it has issued to players considering joining LIV Golf and suspensions that have been imposed on players who do so to the left of PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan.

A PGA Tour spokesman confirmed the DOJ’s request to ESPN. The Wall Street Journal first reported details of the investigation on Monday.

“This was not unexpected,” the PGA Tour statement said. “We went through that in 1994 and we’re confident of a similar outcome.”

A player’s agent told ESPN Monday that he was first contacted by DOJ officials about three weeks ago. His client had left the PGA Tour to join LIV Golf. The agent did not want his or the player’s identity to be revealed due to the sensitive nature of the investigation.

“They launched an investigation into the PGA Tour and wanted to know if [my client] would be willing to participate in a confidential and voluntary interview,” the agent said. “They wanted to ask him about his interactions with the PGA Tour during the development of LIV Golf.”

The agent added that the DOJ’s attorneys were “a little bit like a dog with a bone. They’re in. I expect them to dig as deep as they can because they’re in everywhere. I could tell.”

Monahan has indefinitely suspended more than 20 players who competed in the first two events of LIV Golf in London, England and Portland, Oregon without being granted clearances for conflicting events. Among them are former major champions Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson.

Some of the players were lured to LIV Golf by signing more than $100 million in bonuses and $25 million in purses for each event.

Some players, including former Masters champions Patrick Reed and Garcia, have retired from the PGA Tour.

One of the issues the DOJ is closely investigating, according to another agent, is whether the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and major governing bodies have conspired to not award LIV players official World Golf Ranking points. The 48 players who competed in the first two LIV events were not awarded world ranking points.

Three players, including longtime PGA Tour member Ian Poulter, have been granted a stay by a British court to play in last week’s Scottish Open. They had been banned from attending the event, which is jointly sanctioned by the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour.

In 1994, the Federal Trade Commission investigated whether the PGA Tour had violated federal laws by requiring its members to obtain the commissioner’s permission to attend outside events and appear on other golf television programs. The FTC ended this investigation without penalizing the PGA Tour.

LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, a two-time Open champion, has argued that professional golfers are independent entrepreneurs and should be allowed to play wherever they choose.

“You must be joking,” Norman wrote in a February letter to Monahan. “And certainly your attorneys on the PGA Tour need to hold their breath. As has been widely reported, you have threatened players on the PGA Tour, all of whom are independent contractors, with lifetime bans if they choose to play in a golf league sponsored by anyone other than the Tour.

“But if you try to bluff and intimidate players by bullying and threatening them, you are guilty of overreaching, of being unfair, and you are likely violating federal laws.”

https://www.espn.com/golf/story/_/id/34227586/us-department-justice-investigating-pga-tour-behavior-towards-liv-golf U.S. Department of Justice investigating PGA Tour for behavior toward LIV Golf

Emma Bowman

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