LIV TOUR V PGA TOUR – GOOCH, SWAFFORD AND JONES LOSE CASE

Last night, while I was asleep here in London, Judge Beth Labson Freeman was ruling in San Jose California in the first LIV Golf v PGA Tour restraining order case. And she was wondering whether this court case was all bad dream. This was a hastily arranged court date to decide whether LIV players Talor Gooch, Hudson Stafford and Matt Jones could be allowed to play in the FedEx Cup play offs starting this week.

Judge Freeman opened her summing up by asking if the events in the film Top Gun Maverick actually happened or if Tom Cruise’s character had died in the opening sequence and everything after the crash was really a dream?

This set the tone for, what I gather from social media, had been a very entertaining afternoon. Thank you to Rex Hoggard, Joel Beall, Kyle Porter, Rick Gehman, Ryan Ballengee, Sean Zak, Jason Sobel and Daniel Kaplan, who were awake to report what happened. 

The judge ruled against the appeal of Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones to be allowed to play in the FedEx Cup Play offs beginning at the St Jude Classic on Thursday. 

The main anti-trust court case brought by 11 LIV golfers against the PGA Tour now has a court date of August 7, 2023.

Hopefully this will give LIV time to find a lawyer who actually knows about golf or even geography. Because their lawyer in this case, Robert Walters, seemed unprepared for even discussing basic golf.

He made a number of weird mistakes, including during the recess leaving his mic on so everyone could hear some of his discussions with his team, mention of the broadcaster Brandel Chamblee.

Although representing golfers who had been paid by the Saudi Investment Fund he referred to the Saudi International tournament as being in Riyadh or Jeddah, not where it is actually played in the King Abdullah Economic City. He then placed the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Ohio.

As Kyle Porter from CBS observed he was explaining the complicated relationship between the majors, the Official World Golf Rankings and the FedEx Cup “like he learned about them 3 weeks ago”.

What raised most eyebrows was this. He said: “The FedEx Cup is the Super Bowl of golf”.

He talked about LIV having a 20% market share (though on the basis of fans actually in attendance that would be 0.2% of the market, and also, most of them had not paid to get in anyway).

The judge picked up on this “How can you project a 20% market share and yet call the PGA Tour a monopoly? It is not illegal to be a monopoly. The question is whether the monopoly power is being used against another organisation”

The LIV lawyer also said that the money won in tournaments is recouped against LIV contracts. This is not true. It is separate from the prize money. 

Now, let’s take a breath.

I live in a country where it’s just been announced that our energy bills will reach nearly £4,500 a year in January. I find it absolutely insulting that the plaintiff’s attorney said this about Gooch, Swafford and Jones:

“these three poor kids”

Yeah right. Multi-millionaire kids.

The PGA Tour attorney Eliot Peters quite rightly jumped on this:

“They made a business decision to receive money.  They have made more money in the last two months than they’ve ever made on the PGA Tour. LIV money is way bigger than FedEx Cup money”

The judge was then shown slides which set out the exact amounts of money which Gooch, Swafford and Jones signed for, which were not shown to the court. The judge nodded her head . “Remarkable” she said. “I’m trying to interpret in plain language your regulations and not how you would like them to work”.

She then, in giving judgment for the defendant PGA Tour, said that “LIV contracts are based on the calculation on what they were leaving behind. They lock up these players in a way the PGA Tour never imagined they are so restrictive”

And that is the crux of the matter. Having taken these huge sums of money from LIV each player is tied in to playing (next year) 14 LIV tournaments. They cannot cherry pick where they want to play because the PGA Tour also has a 15 tournament minimum commitment. They can’t just go in and out of the PGA Tour or DP World Tour and do smash and grab appearances to alleviate their boredom with the LIV product.

PGA Tour players can’t just pop up in LIV events as and when they please, just to alleviate their boredom with the PGA Tour product either. This is because LIV is a closed shop. It is by invitation only. This court case highlighted for me how the PGA tour was right to ban the LIV players from their events. Their committed players can’t go in and out of the LIV tour so why should LIV golfers be able to do the same? 

The court case also got blown off course by bringing up Masters Chairman Fred Ridley. It is up to each major championship to decide whether or not to allow LIV golfers into their fields. It looks as though, for now, they will be allowed to play in the four majors.  But that will be the only alleviation of what will inevitably be their boredom with the LIV product and the lack of buy in from golf fans. From where it stands now it looks to me like a massive, very expensive, white elephant.

But as for representing their countries in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cups? Some very strong words from American Presidents Cup Captain Davis Love III last week, who even talked about PGA Tour players walking out and refusing to play in events where LIV golfers were. Wow. This really sounds like a civil war.

So, first blooding to the PGA Tour in this court case. The main event will take place in August next year. It will take a crystal ball to work out what will happen with that. But I did spot that one of the best psychic mediums in the world answered that question on YouTube on Sunday. Stay tuned for what he had to say.

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Open Champion Cameron Smith signs for LIV according to Aussie golfer Cam Percy

Speaking to an Australian radio station about Smith and Marc Leishman, unfortunately, they’re gone”.

Cameron Percy, an Australian golfer who just tied for eighth at the Wyndham Championship, did an interview with RSN Radio Australia and all but confirmed Smith and fellow Aussie Marc Leishman are already gone.

If they do in fact make the move, it’ll be interesting to see if they wait until after the Presidents Cup. Smith is No. 1 in the International Team standings while Leishman is 16th.

Both players would be ineligible for the team event if they left after the FedEx Cup playoffs.

This signing seems to be confirmed by an exclusive in the Telegraph. here in the UK.

Cameron Smith refused to confirm or deny his signing in his press conference at the St Jude Classic on Tuesday.

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Frank Sinatra watches Ben Hogan win the 1953 Open at Carnoustie

Frank came over to perform at the Caird Hall in nearby Dundee at a time when his career had taken a nosedive. Less than 500 people filled the 2,000 seater Scottish hall. To take his mind off his lack of ticket sales he went off to watch Ben Hogan win the Open at Carnoustie. He was obviously inspired as one hard man watching another. Later that year Frank made the hit film From Here To Eternity, which won him a best actor Oscar and he was back on top again.

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Text conversation between Sergio and Greg about being banned from the Tour

This week the Wall Street Journal roke the news of the anti trust court case brought by Mickelson and 10 other LIV tour players against the PGA Tour. In the court documents this exchange of text messages between Sergio Garcia and Greg Norman was discovered, showing Sergio might have been looking to jump ship in February. He has since resigned from the PGA Tour.

Norman then responds with this: “They cannot ban you for one day, let alone life. It is a shallow threat. Ask them to put it in writing to you or any player. Happy for them to speak to our legal team to explain they have no chance of enforcing. Who said there would be a lifetime ban? And to whom? Important to know these facts. I will get something to you to show you why they cannot”.

Garcia replies: “The Commissioner had a meeting with 5 or 6 of the biggest agencies of golf managers, mine included, and first told them that if any of their players had signed with the league they should leave the room. After that they talked about what the tour is going to do going forward and whoever signs with the league they would ban for life.

So these court documents have brought this to light and also that Mickelson was suspended from the PGA Tour, initially for three months, but now until at least March 2024.

Announcements from LIV that it will start properly next year, indicates that there will be some sort of relegation of underperforming LIV golfers so that new players can join the 48. Where will they play if they are banned?

If the 11 golfers bringing this case succeed, they may be creating a rod for their own backs. LIV Golf will have a worldwide schedule of 14 events, and the up front mneu means they must play in every event. The PGA Tour says that they must play a minimum of 15 events. Players like Ian Poulter will also want to play in some DP World Tour events. Plus four majors, possible Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.

Their argument that they will be playing less, and spending more time with their families, on this basis isn’t true. The will be playing a lot more.

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LIV Golfers not questioning human rights… meet Sophia, the first robot citizen of Saudi Arabia

We’ve heard their pre-rehearsed lines in interviews: “I don’t know enough about the subject to comment” “I’m only here to play golf”. Well, perhaps this might get through to them.

I watched a film called The Good Candidate, about a female doctor in Saudi Arabia who wants to get elected as a politician to get things done, but because she’s a woman, she’s oppressed. Meanwhile her Dad, a musician, has a whale of a time swanning round the gulf states having a whale of a time.

And yet, the Saudi’s have allowed a robotic female to become a citizen of Saudi Arabia. See This Morning’s interview with Holly Willouby. It is scary. The robot is made in Hong Kong. Are we going to see robot tournament hosts? They can hand out beers and tell everyone to zip it, even though the whole idea is for golf to become shoutier and louder. It might be safer for robots to engage with the public. Or will it? According to this interview, the more Sophia interacts with humans the more she takes on their traits. So will she be shouting “go in the hole?” “mashed potatoes” “you’re the man”.

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Bryson DeChambeau gets told off by wife of Masters Champion

Another example of how volatile things are at the moment. Even if you are the beefiest golfer out there, don’t mess with big Julie… Where she is right, of course, is that he should never have given Ben Crenshaw any putting advice, particularly at Augusta. As the film shows below, his putting stoke has always been sublime, a thing of beauty. But being the gentleman he is, he listened to Bryson with great tolerance. Possibly also because Bryson’s golfing mind is like no other, completely original and innovative ways of approaching the game. Perhaps he should take on Sophia the robot above, and teach her how to putt.

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Greg Norman seems to call this year’s LIV events test events for the proper thing next year

Well that explains it then. The lack of crowds, free or $1 tickets , some less than household names, injured, senior players. What they’re watching are test events, In this interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Greg Norman seems to say what we’re watching is a dress rehearsal for when they get the real thing launched next year. But they are still paying winners $4 million a tournament while they’re working it all out.

It’s concerning that they will probably be releasing the less well performing players this year as the 48 man quota has been reached, and there is demand from players to join them. Make way for the Ryder Cup Captain, the new Open Champion, it must be unsettling for the lesser known players particularly as they are being blocked at the moment from competing on the two main tours.

what is interesting about this film is how little Greg Norman knows about Women’s golf. He says to Tucker Carlson this:

Greg: The LPGA is sponsored by Aramco

Tucker: Literally?

Greg: Literally

Oops. Aramco is a main sponsor on the Ladies European Tour, not the LPGA.

The 11 players sueing the PGA Tour are seeking a jury trial. This ensures maximum drama. This film shows Greg convincing Tucker Carlson to his cause, but he really seems to mean it when he says he doesn’t care what people think. He’ll care if the Saudi Investment Fund turn off the cash flow because the product isn’t working. It’s ultimately up to the fans. If they attend and support the events and engage with whats happening in person, not behind a computer screen. If they don’t, this ultimately will be remembered as the time of existential threat.

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Mickelson heckled at third LIV event

I think this will be quite an historic film, because it captures the level of hostility in professional golf at this moment. Although it’s a professional comedian seizing the moment to make good content for his social media, he is also the spokesman for many. Including some of the families of victims of 9/11 who were protesting outside the gates.

He is confronted by a LIV security guard, like journalist Alan Shipnuck was at the first event. The fact that security guards are watching the crowd is un nerving. The atmosphere is pretty toxic at the moment.

And yesterday the news broke that 11 players, headed by Mickelson are sueing the PGA Tour, essentially for restraint of trade. Perfect timing with the FedEx Cup playoffs coming up. In the court documents there is conformation that Mickelson was suspended by the PGA Tour in February for actively recruiting players to join LIV. He applied to rejoin in June but this was denied because he played in the first LIV event in London.

When he appealed it was refused and he is now suspended from the PGA Tour until March 2024 at the earliest. And Billy Walters’ book is coming out soon, what more will that bring up about his gambling friends? How much more stress can he take? But if as I suspect, he’s ultimately headed to a career in politics, this has all been a training ground.

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Why Lee Trevino will always be loved

It was a joy to see the now silver haired Lee Buck Trevino back at St Andrews this year. He certainly cheered Tiger up at the Champions Dinner. He infused so much laughter and enthusiasm. In this country he will always be remembered not just for being a double Open and double US Open champion, but for Pro Celebrity Golf which brought so much joy in the 1980s. These films are starting to resurface on You Tube. It is glorious to hear Peter Alliss in his pomp and to see Bruce Forsyth, Sean Connery, Terry Wogan and many others competing in teams. This is the best golf entertainment product ever.

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The 45th President’s plans for Bedminster

When I was quite young my Dad and I were at a much loved inland course here in England. I had to ask him about what I kept on seeing.

“Dad, around lots of the greens there are like grey trails of ashy stuff. Why don’t the greenkeepers sweep that up?”

My Dad looked uncomfortable, like I had asked about the facts of life. It was actually the opposite. It was the facts of death.

He told me that they were dead people. Who loved the golf club so much that they wanted their final resting place to be there after they had been cremated. Ooh, I didn’t expect that. I worried about the wind blowing them away, or dog walkers letting their dogs getting too near… Sometimes, you shouldn’t ask.

I was reminded of this when last week the rebel LIV tour had their third event at Trump Bedminster. Because, as the players went to the first tee, nearby is a brand new grave, of Donald Trump’s first wife, Ivana. Indeed, there are 10 plots there for future burials of the Trump family. The area was cordoned off, a discrete plaque and flowers, but it was there for the scant crowds who paid $1 to come in to see.

Which technically makes Trump National Bedminster a cemetery rather than a golf club. Under New Jersey law if the Trump Family Trust designate the land as being used for cemetery purposes it is exempt from real estate property taxes, sales tax, income and business tax. It also cannot be sold to satisfy any court judgments. As the 45th President looks set to be the most litigated man in history, this looks like smart tax evasion. Ivana’s estate was also charged with the burial, maintenance and club membership fees.

It’s no longer a golf course, it’s going to be the new Graceland.

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