DOJ launches antitrust probe into PGA Tour’s handling of LIV Golf’s emergence: report

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The Justice Department reportedly launched an antitrust investigation on Monday over its fight to stave off players from joining the Saudi-backed LIV Golf.

The report on Monday came as LIV Golf inked deals with several top stars in the PGA Tour, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka among others.

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Greg Norman, CEO of LIV Golf, tosses beers to spectators at the 18th green during the Portland Invitational LIV Golf tournament in North Plains, Ore., Saturday, July 2, 2022.
(AP Photo/Steve DiPaola)

Agents for the golfers have received questions from the Justice Department’s antitrust division about the PGA Tour’s rules about players participating in other events and the organization’s actions when it came to LIV Golf, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The PGA Tour said it was aware of the probe.

“This was not unexpected. We went through this in 1994 and we are confident in a similar outcome,” the organization said in a statement to Fox News Digital.

LIV Golf did not immediately return Fox News Digital’s request for comment.

The PGA Tour’s rivalry with LIV Golf has cast a shadow over the sport in recent months. Golfers who requested a release to play in LIV Golf’s opening tournament were denied and those who did so were suspended indefinitely. Several players who resigned their membership from the PGA Tour will not be allowed to participate in future tournaments as a non-member via sponsor exemption or any other eligibility category.

Fans await the final grouping at the 18th hole during the third round of the Portland Invitational LIV Golf tournament in North Plains, Ore., Saturday, July 2, 2022.

Fans await the final grouping at the 18th hole during the third round of the Portland Invitational LIV Golf tournament in North Plains, Ore., Saturday, July 2, 2022.
(AP Photo/Steve DiPaola)

RORY MCILROY ON LIVE GOLF: ‘NO ROOM’ FOR SAUDI-BACKED RIVAL TOUR

“These players have made their choice for their own financial-based reasons. But they can’t demand the same PGA Tour membership benefits, considerations, opportunities and platform as you. That expectation disrespects you, our fans and our partners. You have made a different choice, which is to abide by the Tournament Regulations you agreed to when you accomplished the dream of earning a PGA Tour card and – more importantly – to compete as part of the preeminent organization in the world of professional golf,” a memo from PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan read to members last month.

“I am certain our fans and partners – who are surely tired of all this talk of money, money and more money – will continue to be entertained and compelled by the world-class competition you display each and every week, where there are true consequences for every shot you take and your rightful place in history whenever you reach that elusive winner’s circle.”

Three golfers who were initially banned from playing the Scottish Open by the DP World Tour in Europe won a temporary stay and competed in the event over the weekend.

Brooks Koepka walks off the green on the 12th hole during a practice round prior to the LIV Golf Invitational - Portland at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club on June 27, 2022 in North Plains, Oregon.

Brooks Koepka walks off the green on the 12th hole during a practice round prior to the LIV Golf Invitational – Portland at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club on June 27, 2022 in North Plains, Oregon.
(Steve Dykes/LIV Golf via Getty Images)

The PGA Tour’s bylaws suggest that golfers are barred from playing in other televised golf events without approval. Players are allowed up to three releases per season, however, none are granted for North American events, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Federal Trade Commission launched a probe in 1994, but it was dropped a year later.

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Last month, the DP World Tour announced fines of around $120,000 and bans from the Scottish Open, the Barbasol Championship and Barracuda Championship – all events co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour – for players who competed in the first-ever LIV Golf event in London .

The reported opening of the antitrust investigation comes right before President Joe Biden is set to visit Saudi Arabia. It is the president’s final stop before heading home. Oil production and the kingdom’s human rights record are expected to be two of the topics discussed during the trip.

Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi had been a point of contention with those joining LIV Golf. Mickelson received a ton of criticism for initially brushing off the murder before he backtracked and apologized.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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