The PGA Tour won in court on Tuesday but it's becoming apparent that they're going to lose their Players champion -- which might be more costly in the long run.
On an extraordinary day with significant developments from California to Memphis in the battle between the Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series, U.S. Northern California District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman rejected a Temporary Restraining Order sought by Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones, who were suspended by the Tour on when the signed with LIV Golf but still wanted to enter the FedEx Cup playoffs beginning on Thursday at TPC Southwind in Memphis.
Readers sound off: What do they think about golf's polarizing Saudi-backed LIV golf series
Percy: "They're gone"
During a news conference at the TPC Southwind, Cameron Smith of Ponte Vedra Beach, who won The Players and the British Open this season and enters the playoffs second behind Scottie Scheffler, offered no comment when he was asked about reports that he will jump to LIV Golf as soon as the playoffs are over in three weeks.
Fellow Australian Tour member Cameron Percy told an Australian radio station that Smith and another Aussie, Marc Leishman, will bolt for LIV Golf when the playoffs and Presidents Cup are concluded.
"Unfortunate[ly], yeah, they're gone," Percy told RSN radio.
In addition, The Telegraph in London reported that Smith was signing with LIV for $100 million. The CEO of LIV Golf, Greg Norman, is Australian and one of Smith's idols.
"My goal here is to win the FedExCup Playoffs. That's all I'm here for," Smith said during his news conference. "If there's something I need to say regarding the PGA Tour or LIV, it will come from Cameron Smith, not Cameron Percy. I'm a man of my word and whenever you guys need to know anything, it'll be said by me."
Smith won The Players with a scintillating final round 66 in which he survived a bogey at the last. He won the Open at St. Andrews for his first major championship.
The policy of Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has been to suspend any player when he tees it up in a LIV event, falling on a rule in which he has to approve releases for events outside the PGA Tour. To date, no player among the top-10 in the world has jumped to LIV Golf.
Judge rejects contention of harm
Gooch, Swafford and Jones were three of nine players who jumped to the LIV Golf Series who still had enough FedEx Cup points to finish among the top-125, the cutoff for the playoffs.
The players said they were being "irreparably harmed" because they couldn't compete in the FedEx Cup. But Freeman agreed with Tour lawyers who argued that their LIV Golf earnings potential was far greater.
LIV Golf purses for eight events this year total $200 million for individual finishes ($25 million for each event), with a 54-hole, no-cut format. Players finishing last in the fields of 48 get $120,000, regardless of their scores.
Gooch has earned an average of $634,333 for three LIV Golf starts and prior to his suspension, he averaged $169,065 in 22 PGA Tour starts.
Jones earned $95,28 per start in Tour events, compared to $195,533 in LIV Golf and Swafford averaged $81,663 on the PGA Tour and $152,667 in LIV Golf.
“There simply is no irreparable harm in this case,” PGA Tour attorney Elliot Peters said in the court proceeding.
Antitrust suit to be heard in 2023
Gooch, Jones and Swafford are also among 10 former Tour members playing LIV Golf who have filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour. They include Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka.
A preliminary court date was set for the antitrust suit for next August.
“We’re disappointed that Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones won’t be allowed to play golf. No one gains by banning golfers from playing," LIV Golf said in a statement.
Monahan issued a memo to members that included: “With today’s news, our players, fans and partners can now focus on what really matters over the next three weeks: the best players in the world competing in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, capping off an incredibly compelling season with the crowning of the FedEx Cup champion at the Tour Championship.”
The Associated Press also contributed to this report.
Contact Garry Smits at email@example.com
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: PGA Tour wins first court battle but reports have Players champion Cameron Smith bolting for LIV Golf