LIV Golf has opened a second legal front in its ongoing challenge of what it calls the existing professional golf ecosystem.
The most recent litigation was filed on Nov. 16 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida and is an extension of an antitrust lawsuit that was filed against the PGA Tour in the Northern District of California in August by a group of players who had joined LIV.
The challenge stems from LIV’s desire to depose DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley and seek discovery from the European circuit, which lawyers for the start-up circuit claim entered into a strategic alliance with the PGA Tour that was an “unlawful conspiratorial agreement.”
Lawyers for Pelley argued that a federal rule that limits a court’s jurisdiction to anyone “within 100 miles of where the person resides, is employed, or regularly transacts business in person” exempts him from having to comply with the subpoena. The same rule applies for discovery.
The DP World Tour argued, however, that its headquarters in England are more than 4,000 miles away from Jacksonville, Florida, and downplayed its strategic alliance with the U.S. circuit and PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan’s position on the DP World Tour’s board.
“The mere presence of one of its directors [Monahan] near Jacksonville does not somehow transform the European Tour’s overseas business operations as physically transacted within 100 miles of the place of compliance,” the motion read.
LIV’s response, which was filed on Tuesday, called the European circuit’s argument “artfully worded half-truths, omissions of critical facts, and a misleading picture of [the DP World Tour's] extensive contacts with this district.”
LIV also pointed out the DP World Tour's close ties to the U.S. and Florida, noting “the 2022 schedule for the DP World Tour boasts six American flags [events] denoting tournaments in the U.S. that qualify for points on the tour, more than any other country on its schedule.”
Three of those “flags” are major championships, which are sanctioned by the PGA Tour but are not run by the circuit, and the WGC-Match Play is sanctioned by all of the members of the International Federation of PGA Tours. Only the Barbasol Championship and Barracuda Championship are solely co-sanctioned by the two circuits.
LIV claimed Pelley traveled to PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, in March 2021 “for a series of meetings” with Monahan and that he “is scheduled to return to this district in a mere two weeks’ time for another conspiratorial meeting with the PGA Tour [and others] targeting LIV.”
This appears to be a reference to a report that Pelley and the game’s other leaders plan to meet on Dec. 10 during The Match in Florida. A Tour official said no meeting is planned at the made-for-television event.
There is some legal irony that LIV is arguing against a similar request in the Northern California case where the Tour is attempting to depose Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the Public Investment Fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is financing LIV Golf.
Judge Laura Lothman Lambert will rule on the dispute between LIV Golf and the European circuit in a hearing scheduled in Jacksonville, Florida, on Jan. 5.