The expedited schedule the PGA Tour and LIV Golf agreed to at the outset of the antitrust lawsuit against the Tour is now being challenged by the circuit in the most-recent motion.
In a request filed Sunday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, attorneys for the Tour requested the judge set a new trial date, which is currently scheduled for January 2024, and extend document discovery, which is set to be completed by the end of March, due to the addition of the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia and its governor as defendants in the Tour’s tortious interference counter claim.
“It could take several months (or longer) before PIF and [its governor Yasir] Al-Rumayyan even begin producing discovery or choose to face the consequences of their noncompliance,” the Tour argued.
The Tour requested a 6-month extension to discovery and for the judge to vacate the current trial date with a new case management conference scheduled in “approximately” three months. LIV’s attorneys countered by requesting the court “bifurcate” the original antitrust lawsuit from the Tour’s counterclaim against PIF and Al-Rumayyan.
“[The Tour’s] strategy was transparent from the start: put up every conceivable roadblock to timely resolution; pursue discovery that knows no bounds; and seek any means possible to postpone facing trial,” LIV’s attorneys argued, adding the harm to the new circuit and its players, who have been suspended by the Tour, would be “immeasurable” if the trial were delayed.
The Tour has requested that PIF and Al-Rumayyan be added to the counterclaim because they have “near absolute authority over LIV” and are central to this case, pointing out the fund owns “93 percent” of the breakaway league. LIV has argued that PIF is nothing more than an investor in the new league and “their conduct is peripheral to the case.”
The Tour’s motion to compel the PIF and Al-Rumayyan to submit to discovery is still pending following a Jan. 13 hearing before Judge Susan van Keulen. Regardless of her ruling, van Keulen conceded during last month’s hearing that a ruling may be “only the [way] station to the Ninth Circuit [of Appeals],” which would bring the antitrust litigation to “a screeching halt.”
As an example of the complicated discovery disputes that have delayed the case, the Tour referenced Phil Mickelson, an original plaintiff in the case who has since withdrawn from the litigation but is still subject to discovery. The Tour’s attorneys claim Mickelson “has failed to produce core responsive documents, such as those detailing his contract negotiations with LIV, communications with his agent, communications with the media regarding interviews in which he discussed his decision to leave the Tour, and communication with his then-sponsors following his decision to join LIV.”
Abraham Ancer, Jason Kokrak, Carlos Ortiz and Pat Perez – who were suspended after joining LIV last year – were also challenged by the Tour’s lawyers over discovery disputes.
LIV’s attorneys disputed those claims, stating that “productions from agents will continue on a rolling basis, and will be completed well before the document production deadline.”
LIV’s lawyers also reiterated the original need for an expediated schedule to the antitrust litigation to protect the players who have been suspended as well as the new circuit and to keep the Tour from “exploiting a litigation delay to choke off air to LIV and players.” The Tour, however, argued that since LIV Golf has joined the litigation and the number of player plaintiffs has been reduced from the original 11 to three (Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Jones and Peter Uihlein), there is “no emergency and no need to press forward” now that the case is essentially two competing circuits.