MEMPHIS, Tenn. – “Final field set for FedEx St. Jude Championship as FedEx Cup Playoffs begin.”
So read the subject line on the official press release that was emailed to the media Monday morning. Only thing is, it might not necessarily be accurate.
That’s because the ongoing, bitterly contentious and very public brouhaha between the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series is headed to court Tuesday afternoon. Last week, three LIV Golf players – Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford – filed for a temporary restraining order against the PGA Tour that would nullify their suspensions and allow them to participate in the FedEx Cup Playoffs. This week’s event, for the first time in its 65-year history, serves as the kickoff of the PGA Tour’s three-tournament postseason.
A hearing has been scheduled for 4 p.m. ET, at which time the U.S. District Court of Northern California will decide whether Gooch, Jones and Swafford will be on the course at the start of play Thursday.
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But Tuesday’s hearing is much more than that, according to four-time PGA Tour winner Notah Begay III, who won the 2000 FedEx St. Jude Classic and will be part of this week’s television broadcast team for the Golf Channel and NBC Sports.
“Huge precedents are being set,” said Begay. “Either way, it will have a huge impact on the next steps for both organizations and the path for these players moving forward.”
Begay didn’t sugarcoat his opinion of LIV Golf.
“I look at LIV Golf as Ice Capades for golf,” he said. “It’s not competition at its fiercest, highest, most cut-throat level, which is what I think the true golf fans want to see. If players want to be part of the game’s elite, if they want to contest golf at the hardest, most challenging level, you do it on the PGA Tour. I don’t see that changing.”
Begay also isn’t so sure that this week’s ruling will significantly affect on-course matters in Memphis this week.
“The only thing it will impact is the two organizations at the center of this dispute and what their next steps will be,” he said. “A lot’s at stake here. But I don’t know if it changes anybody’s goals as a player.”
Four-time PGA Tour winner Notah Begay III will be part of the broadcast crew for this week’s FedEx St. Jude Championship in Memphis. (Kent Horner/NBC Sports)
The potential mandatory injunction isn’t the only legal battle being waged between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf. Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Gooch, Jones, Swafford and six others (including last year’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational winner Abraham Ancer) filed a lawsuit challenging their respective suspensions.
The lawsuit, obtained by Golfweek, states: “As the Tour’s monopoly power has grown, it has employed its dominance to craft an arsenal of anticompetitive restraints to protect its long-standing monopoly. Now, threatened by the entry of LIV Golf, Inc. (“LIV Golf”), and diametrically opposed to its founding mission, the Tour has ventured to harm the careers and livelihoods of any golfers … who have the temerity to defy the Tour and play in tournaments sponsored by the new entrant. The Tour has done so in an intentional and relentless effort to crush nascent competition before it threatens the Tour’s monopoly.”
On Monday, the PGA Tour filed a 32-page response to the suit filed against it, as well as a seven-page example of what it calls mischaracterizations and mistruths presented by the LIV players.
Of particular interest in the Tour’s response is that it said 98 percent of its net profits are given to players, tournaments and charities. The Tour said that allowing suspended LIV golfers to compete for FedEx Cup Playoff purses would create financial harm to players who have remained committed to the Tour.
LIV Golf member Matt Jones, pictured at TPC Southwind in Memphis during the 2020 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, along with Talor Gooch and Hudson Swafford, have filed a temporary restraining order against the PGA Tour. (Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)
Golfweek reporter Jason Lusk contributed to this report.
Reach sports writer Jason Munz at email@example.com or on Twitter @munzly.