The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched an investigation into the PGA TOUR over allegations of anticompetitive behavior. The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday 11th July that players’ agents had received inquiries from the DOJ’s antitrust division about the TOUR’s bylaws and actions, as many players prepared to leave for the rival Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour.
PGA TOUR bylaws say that players aren’t allowed to participate in other televised golf events unless they get permission from the tour’s commissioner, and the PGA TOUR has announced bans and fines for players who have joined LIV Golf.
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The LIV Golf tour has proved controversial due to Saudi Arabia’s record of human rights abuses, but has been able to attract players due to the large amounts of money on offer.
This isn’t the first time the PGA has been investigated – in 1994 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) spent a year investigating the PGA TOUR over two of its rules involving players competing in different tournaments. A tour spokesperson confirmed the DOJ’s investigation, saying “This was not unexpected. We went through this in 1994 and we are confident in a similar outcome.”
The PGA Tour has suspended prominent players such as Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson for their participation in the LIV Golf League. Other players requested permission to participate in the inaugural LIV Golf tournament, which took place last month in St Albans, England, but requests were denied by the PGA TOUR. The breakaway series has also held a tournaments in Portland, Oregon.
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The war of words between the PGA TOUR and the LIV’s Saudi sponsors has polarised opinions throughout the golf world. The LIV’s accusations of “monopolistic behavior” included suggestions that the Federal Government would have to get involved to investigate the PGA TOUR’s “unlawful practices.”
Speaking in June, PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan claimed that LIV represents a serious threat to the success of the PGA TOUR.
“If this is an arms race and if the only weapons here are dollar bills, the PGA TOUR can’t compete,” he said. “The PGA TOUR, an American institution, can’t compete with a foreign monarchy that is spending billions of dollars in an attempt to buy the game of golf.
“We welcome good, healthy competition. The LIV Saudi Golf League is not that. It’s an irrational threat; one not concerned with the return on investment or true growth of the game.”
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