In this litigious edition, we break down the obvious and not-so-obvious elements of this week’s legal bombshell, brave the increasingly personal divide the antitrust lawsuit filed against the PGA Tour has created, and celebrate a much-needed distraction at the Wyndham Championship.
The change you want. Before Wednesday’s lawsuit sent the professional golf world spiraling into an all-too-real John Grisham novel, the PGA Tour made news when it unveiled next season’s schedule that was highlighted by dramatic purse increases.
The purse size for eight invitational events will jump to $15 million to $25 million, along with significant increases in the circuit’s various bonus pools to $145 million.
Normally, when people say it’s not about the money, it’s always about the money. Whatever talking points and geopolitics factor into pro golf’s expanding divide, the only constant is money.
The Tour’s answer to LIV Golf’s lucrative bidding war may have come, as former Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson once said, “at the point of a bayonet,” but for those who will be competing for dramatically more money next year on Tour, the talking points and geopolitics probably don’t matter.
Golf. Amid the legal wrangling and escalating vitriol, is the Tour’s regular-season finale and plenty of playoff potential.
Every year at the Wyndham Championship, someone pulls off an 11th-hour rally and earns an unlikely spot in the postseason. That someone could be Brian Stuard this year.
Stuard began the week 137th on the Tour's eligibility points list, but posted a 5-under 65 in Round 1 to move to No. 124 on the projected list.
“I don't have much to lose. I'm kind of not in a real good spot, so just trying to figure out how to play some good golf again and see what happens,” he said.
It would be an impressive resurrection story if Stuard, who missed eight of his first 10 cuts this season and has just two top-10 finishes, plays his way into next week's FedEx St. Jude Championship.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
A deep dive. The 11 suspended LIV Golf players who filed an antitrust lawsuit against the Tour on Wednesday were the focus of most of the reporting, but a deeper dive into the 105-page lawsuit revealed just how consuming this case could become.
In the lawsuit, which was filed by Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Ian Poulter and eight others, the players claim the Tour “has also threatened companies and individuals in the golf and sports production industry that they will be blackballed from working with the Tour if they work with LIV Golf.”
The lawsuit references nearly a dozen vendors and companies that were to be “blacklist[ed]” if they work with LIV Golf, from tech companies to broadcast networks.
The lawsuit also asserts that golf courses were advised not to host LIV events, and claims, “The R&A punished one golf course owner by adopting a policy that it would not host The Open at his course in the future because he is giving LIV Golf ‘a platform.’”
Whether any of these claims hold up to legal scrutiny remains to be seen, but this example from Wednesday’s filings is an indication just how complicated this will become.
2022-23 winners/losers. The eight Tour events that will see dramatically increased purses next season will certainly benefit with better fields and higher profiles, but beyond that it’s not as clear how the new schedule will land.
The Wyndham Championship, for example, will likely take on a bigger role as the final regular-season event now that the list of automatic qualifiers has been cut from the top 125 on the FedExCup points list to the top 70. But it remains to be seen what happens to the fall portion of the schedule.
Currently, there are nine events after the Tour Championship and starting next fall, when those are removed from the FedExCup schedule, it’s unclear if those existing events will simply transition to what the Tour sees as a qualifying series.
Without the status of being a FedExCup event or offering a Masters invitation, it’s likely that the fall events will either fade away or become dramatically less important.
It’s personal. The divide caused by those who bolted the Tour for LIV Golf had been largely civil among the play-for-pay types. That all changed on Wednesday.
The antitrust lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court Northern California District challenges the Tour’s status as the preeminent circuit and, in the short term, threatens to dramatically disrupt the playoffs if a judge grants three suspended players – Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones – a temporary restraining order and allows them to play next week’s postseason opener.
The reaction from those who have remained loyal to the Tour was no longer guarded.
“They are suing me. To me, it’s sad,” Ryan Palmer said. “They’re suing the 200 card-carrying members of the PGA Tour. They chose to go this route and play less and now they want to play more.”
Davis Love III went so far as to suggest Tour players could boycott events that the suspended LIV players are allowed to play and showed just how personal this has gotten when he was asked what he would say to LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman.
“I don’t have anything to say to him,” Love said.
Tweet of the week:
After a good amount of give-and-take on Twitter, Dahmen added,: