It’s early in the legal battle, but the PGA Tour on Tuesday scored a key victory over three of the 11 LIV golfers who sued the Tour last Wednesday. Judge Beth Lasbon Freeman denied a motion for a temporary restraining order brought by Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones. The trio, whom the tour suspended until 2024 over their decision to join LIV, hoped to play in the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
Now, they won’t—and it will be because of money, and the damages that money can and cannot fix.
Freeman presided over a hearing that lasted more than two hours during which attorney Robert Walters argued for the golfers and attorney Elliot Peters argued for the tour.
Walters’ main argument concerned what he portrayed as the PGA Tour violating its own procedural rules in extending the suspensions of the golfers from 2023 to 2024. Walters insisted that under tour rules, once a golfer files an appeal, the suspension is stayed until the appeal is resolved. Peters disagreed, maintaining that commissioner Jay Monahan has a separate authority to immediately suspend “serial offenders,” a category that included LIV golfers and other potential groups, such as a player who gets a “hate speech” endorsement and then uses the appeals process to try to play anyway.
Peters landed what turned out to be a knockout blow through his depiction of irreparable harm, which a party seeking a temporary restraining order must show it would suffer without one. In law, irreparable harm refers to an injury that money can’t later fix.
While Walters maintained the golfers would suffer irreparable harm by being denied a chance to play in a tournament that carries prestige and impacts rankings, which in turn impacts eligibility for major tournaments, Peters maintained all of those consequences are about money, be it prize money or endorsement opportunities. He also drew attention to monetary calculations by the golfers about money lost from being denied a chance to play. Peters further pointed out that those calculations suggest LIV Golf will pay more, especially in the form of guaranteed money.
Freeman found Peters’ description persuasive and ruled for the tour. She noted, however, that the case is early in the process, and complex questions of antitrust law have not yet been examined. The golfers could ultimately win, though Freeman mentioned a trial might not take place until 2025 given her busy docket.
For now, at least, score one for the PGA Tour.
“We’re disappointed,” LIV Golf said in a statement, “that Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones won’t be allowed to play golf. No one gains by banning golfers from playing.”
(This article has been updated in the final paragraph with a statement from LIV Golf.)