SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) — A federal judge on Tuesday denied a request by three LIV Golf Series players for a temporary restraining order allowing them to play in this week’s US PGA Tour FedEx Cup playoffs.
US District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman made the ruling after a hearing at San Jose on the lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California.
Australian Matt Jones and Americans Talor Gooch and Hudson Swafford had sought the chance to compete in the FedEx Cup playoff opener, the St. Jude’s Championship, that begins Thursday in Memphis.
All three were among those suspended by the PGA Tour after they teed off in their first event of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series in June. The ruling upheld that ban.
“We’re disappointed that Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford, and Matt Jones won’t be allowed to play golf,” LIV Golf said in a statement. “No one gains by banning golfers from playing.”
Gooch was ranked 20th in FedEx Cup points with Jones 65th and Swafford 67th. The top 125 players in season points qualified for Memphis with 70 players advancing to next week’s BMW Championship and the top 30 reaching the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta.
Had they been able to play and reached the Tour Championship, the trio would have earned berths in next year’s Masters and US and British Opens.
But LIV Golf players could not show irreparable harm since they will be allowed to play LIV Golf events when those resume next month in Boston.
While LIV Golf players claim they are independent contractors, the PGA Tour argued they were members and the tour can punish members who violate rules, such as playing in LIV events.
“With today’s news, our players, fans, and partners can now focus on what really matters over the next three weeks, the best players in the world competing in the FedEx Cup playoffs,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said in a memo obtained by The Golf Channel.
LIV Golf has lured away such top stars as Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson with guaranteed money and record purses of $25 million at events.
Jones, Gooch, and Swafford were among 11 LIV Golf players who filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the PGA Tour.
Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz, who had been among the 11 players in the lawsuit, has dropped out of the case, his manager said.
Some players at Memphis warned of a frosty reception for LIV golfers had they been allowed to tee off after departing for richer prize money as well as trying to knock PGA players out of their own playoffs.
“Going to be a pretty icy Thursday morning if those guys play,” 2009 US Open champion Lucas Glover told The Golf Channel. “They want their cake and eat it too.”
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