On Wednesday, the LIV Golf Invitational Series released the first field of players for its first event next week at the Centurion Club in London. Notable names include 24-time PGA Tour winner Dustin Johnson and former world number 1s Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood. Now, players await to see the PGA Tour’s reaction to golfers joining the LIV Golf Invitational Series.
LIV Golf Invitational Series
The eight-event series held between June and October will offer a purse of $25 million, with $4 million going to the winner, for each of the first seven events and a $50 million purse for the final event, a team championship with $16 million going to the winning four-man team. For comparison, the largest purse on the PGA Tour is The Players Championship at $20 million, with $3.6 million going to the winner.
Feuding Between the Two Leagues
In February, Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, hinted during a meeting with the players that there would be ramifications if players participated in the LIV Golf Invitational Series.
In response, Greg Norman, CEO of LIV Golf, issued a memorandum rebuking the PGA Tour’s ability to ban players from participating in PGA Tour events due to players’ independent contractor status and the PGA Tour’s non-profit status.
Sherman Antitrust Act Considerations
Potential punishments from the PGA Tour reveal antitrust considerations.
If challenged, a court would likely strike down an outright ban from the PGA Tour. “[I]t seems clear that if all the newspapers in a City, in order to monopolize the dissemination of news and advertising by eliminating a competing radio station, conspired to accept no advertisements from anyone who advertised over that station, they would violate §§ 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act.” Lorain Journal Co. v. United States, 342 U.S. 143.
Additionally, even a year-long suspension can be a violation of antitrust laws (See Blalock v. Ladies Professional Golf Association, 359 F. Supp. 1260 (N.D. Ga. 1973)).
Thus, if the PGA Tour does not accept players that participate in the LIV Golf Invitational Series or the PGA Tour issues a lengthy suspension, a court could easily find that the PGA Tour is violating the Sherman Antitrust Act.
For other punishments, a court will focus on whether the PGA Tour’s actions are reasonable. Typically, sanctions that do not completely restrict players from the marketplace are viewed as reasonable.
Upon LIV Golf’s reveal of the upcoming field of players, the PGA Tour released a statement expressing their disappointment over players joining the LIV Golf Invitational Series, including stating, “[m]embers who violate the tournament regulations are subject to disciplinary action.” Now, all eyes turn to the PGA Tour to see their next move.