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Judge rules PGA Tour must submit to discovery while Saudis await separate ruling

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The PGA Tour’s attempt to halt discovery in the ongoing lawsuit with LIV Golf, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia and its governor was dealt a legal setback Wednesday.

A U.S. District Court judge denied the Tour’s motion to stay all discovery in the antitrust lawsuit that was filed against the circuit last August. The ruling by Judge Beth Labson Freeman covered three different discovery motions in the case and she granted a motion by the PIF to stay its portion of discovery until after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled on the Fund’s claim of sovereign immunity that should exempt it from jurisdiction in U.S. courts.

“A full halt of discovery would harm the litigation process,” Labson Freeman wrote in her 10-page ruling.

The Tour had argued that without discovery from PIF and its governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, they will not be able to defend against LIV Golf’s antitrust claims. According to court documents, PIF owns 93 percent of the startup league and the Tour has argued the fund is heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the tour.

Eleven players who had been suspended by the Tour for playing LIV Golf events filed the lawsuit against the Tour but have since withdrawn from the case, leaving the original expedited schedule in question.

“Because the Tour’s delay tactics have unduly prolonged this case, the players have chosen to focus their time and attention on their playing careers and let LIV bear the public burden of pursuing these claims,” lawyers for LIV argued in a filing this week. “That understandable choice does not diminish the necessity or exigency of the relief sought by LIV, nor the harm to competition and all players that would ensue if the Tour succeeds in defeating through attrition the only real competitive threat it has faced in its history.”

Lawyers for the Tour responded: “There is no exigency or reason to push this case forward on an impossible schedule that will significantly prejudice the PGA Tour due to PIF’s and [Al-Rumayyan] wholesale disregard of their discovery obligations.”

LIV has requested a May 2024 trial date while the Tour has asked the court to extend the trial date to November 2024. There’s a case management conference scheduled for Monday with Labson Freeman.