If evidence is needed about how tense emotions are in the battle between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf—or, more accurately, between the Tour players and LIV’s patsy pretenders—consider the example of Davis Love III. Throughout his nearly 40-year career, Love has been the epitome of a professional golfer who is elegant, tirelessly polite to his teammates, and so quilted that his idea of revolutionary action sported khaki pants.
Suddenly, the idea of the perfect enterprise of the company man turned to Davis the RedOcasio-Cortez in Ralph Lauren’s pencil case encourages boycotts from a constituency that cares only about slow play and high taxes, while insisting that no LIV player darken a President’s Cup team room door, even if declared eligible by the court.
And he’s not even the angrier guy out there.
Finally, we’ve come to the inevitable point where the carefully designed fellowship fabric of the PGA Tour disintegrates at the seams. That image was always less organic than imposed, with disciplinary action taken against players who spoke out about one of their teammates. The intent was to create an attractive commercial impression of golf as free from jerking, cheating, cheating, wife-beating and other black rangers.
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That facade held out during early defections to the LIV, as tourism loyalists insisted they would remain friends with the departed. But in the wake of legal filings by LIV players on Wednesday — one a court order that would force three of them to participate in the FedEx Cup qualifiers on the PGA Tour, and the other an antitrust claim challenging the tour’s supposed monopoly — divisions are rapidly expanding.
“Their vision is to pick the events they want to play on the PGA Tour,” said Billy Hurschel, who was visibly angry. “It’s frustrating. They’ve made a decision to leave and have to go follow up on the employer. I know there are men out there who are more angry and frustrated than me about that.”
“What they’re doing by going there is hurting our tour,” Will Zalatores said. “You can’t get it both ways.” “A lot of men would be frustrated if they were allowed to do both.”
“Please stay out of your fantasy land,” Joel Dahmin tweeted.
The growing divide is not surprising. It’s hard to be friends with a roommate who’s moved into a fancy new mansion but has come back to burglary and then burn down the house you still live in.
Like most lawsuits, LIV’s antitrust claim has its share of colorful allegations, conjectures, and rumors, many of which tend to wilt or modify when the division is eventually run. Although it was a feast for clickbait editors, the bitter taste in its 100-page singles hints at plaintiffs bent not on cohabiting with the system but on dismantling it and reshaping golf in their favour.
LIV’s compilation of conspiracy theories indicts everyone from PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan to Augusta National President Fred Ridley, and alleges a coordinated effort by the golf powers to erect unfair barriers preventing the rival league from gaining a foothold. It’s a bold claim from a process that has already spent nearly $1 billion establishing itself, and its CEO has another two billion available.
For obvious reasons, LIV lawyers (their bills sent to Riyadh) ignore the possibility that reasonable people would conclude – independently of one another and without an anti-competitive motive – that elite golf is owned by a regime that beheads its critics. It treats human rights as harassment.
The PGA Tour will face that there is a difference between harming a potential competitor and not helping that competitor, and that it is justified in refusing to allow LIV to use its most popular platform, courses and assets to build a business. With 11 plaintiffs involved, the discovery process alone would be long and straightforward, with unflattering details likely to emerge about both the discipline’s covert tour handling and LIV’s grim financial statements. None of it will cool relations between rival players who face court-ordered path crossings on a tee.
There is a strong chance that the Northern District of California will grant the injunction requested by Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones that will allow them to compete in the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Judges have wide discretion in making decisions on matters of fairness rather than legal issues, and it is often considered to allow athletes to compete while litigating related arguments. The injunction will be decided within days, and the antitrust claim will be in years. Among the Tour players, both are interpreted as provocative actions by the men who took the Saudi money but now wish to dip into their wallet as well.
The final outcome of the PGA Tour vs. LIV Golf is unclear, notwithstanding the confident statements of social media constitutional scholars-turned-epidemiologists suing against the monopoly.
One thing that is certain is that lawyers will earn more than many members of either round. This won’t mean much to the LIV claimants, who are funded by a foreign government and don’t have a personal appearance in the game, except for the reputation they’ve already squandered. It’s considerably more personal for those on the other side who will eventually cover the costs of the PGA Tour in their own defense, a sentiment that will only weigh more if a precedent is created that allows LIV players to compete in PGA Tour events where the antitrust situation ends. Court Road.
Greg Norman vows to reshape golf. He actually accomplished it in the locker room, though sadly he remakes things in his own resentful and dissonant image. Life on the PGA Tour will never be the same again, not even for those few players left who still fantasize about the Davis Love III mold that preceded the extremes.
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