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LIV Golf v. PGA Tour and the Future of Professional Golf

LIV Golf v. PGA Tour and the Future of Professional Golf
Wednesday, 12 April 2023 By Jodi Balsam

The staid world of professional golf was upended in 2022 with the entry of LIV Golf, a circuit of invitational tournaments featuring both individual and team play. Financed by the vast resources of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (“PIF”), LIV Golf recruited some of the world’s top golfers, including Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, by paying each signing bonuses, appearance fees, and tournament purses amounting to tens of millions of dollars.1 The breakaway circuit positioned itself as an alternative to the PGA Tour, the top level of professional golf. Given that LIV Golf stages its competitions on the same weekends and often on the same continent as PGA Tour events, the Tour invoked its contractual rights and regulations to suspend golfers who took the money and played for LIV.2 Eleven of those golfers responded with an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour, filed in the Northern District of California.3 That lawsuit has expanded to include other parties and claims, and is now progressing through pretrial discovery.

For more information on this issue from a UK law perspective, please see this LawInSport article.4

This article describes the PGA Tour’s financial and regulatory model and the broader professional golf ecosystem, as understanding this context is essential to evaluating the pending antitrust lawsuit. It then examines the antitrust claims that seek to dismantle the Tour’s model, details the progress of that lawsuit and additional claims and parties that have since been added, and explains how LIV Golf’s entry has already transformed the golf ecosystem.

Article outline:

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Written by

Jodi Balsam

Jodi Balsam

Professor of Clinical Law/Director of Externship Programs, Brooklyn Law School at Brooklyn Law School.

Professor Jodi Balsam is a member of the faculty of Brooklyn Law School, New York City. She teaches Sports Law there, and at NYU School of Law. She is a co-author of the leading Weiler Roberts Sports Law casebook, and frequently appears in the media commenting on sports law developments. Prior to joining academia, she was Counsel for Operations & Litigation at the National Football League. She received her J.D. from NYU School of Law, and her B.A. in History from Yale College.

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