What Does Denied TRO Mean for LIV Golf and LIV Golfers?

LIV, LIV Golf Bedminster,Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports
LIV, LIV Golf Bedminster,Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports /

Federal Judge Beth Labson Freeman threw a 460cc driver-sized monkey wrench into the hopes of LIV Golf, Greg Norman, and the Saudi wealth fund by denying three former PGA Tour players the right to participate in the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

She did it by denying their request for a TRO, short for temporary restraining order, in which they asked that their suspensions by the PGA Tour be lifted so that they could participate in the last three tournaments of the year.

It may be that her action is the beginning of the end for the LIV Tour. In our world of “Oh, surely those rules don’t apply to ME,” LIV golfers Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford, and Matt Jones discovered that yes, they do.

And they are probably about to find out that they have to pay the court costs, too.

This decision means that the rules could easily apply to any other LIV golfers who want to try to do the same thing again, at least in the US.

Judge Freeman said that the three golfers were completely aware of the fact that they could be suspended as a result of joining the LIV golf group or playing in LIV events held in the US at the same time as a PGA Tour event, and that they did it anyway.

A temporary restraining order, according to someone much more expert than I, has to satisfy several things to be granted. Just reading the language of it, three of the four categories didn’t seem to merit granting it, and the fourth doesn’t make sense in this case. (Although I am not an attorney and did not stay in a Holiday Inn last night.)

Alex Miceli, a golf writer who happens to be an attorney, wrote about the TRO for Morning Read/ SI.com for anyone who wants to peek at his lawyerly language.

The bottom line is that the judge felt Gooch, Swafford, and Jones would not be “irreparably harmed” by not being in the Playoffs. Their “injury” did not, in her opinion, outweigh the harm that a TRO might cause the PGA Tour.  And in this case, a TRO would not serve the public interest, merely the interests of three professional golfers.

What particularly weighed against the three golfers was the fact that they had all signed contracts with the LIV golf organization for significant money that was apparently large enough to compensate them for leaving the PGA Tour.  Surely, they all did the calculations and made decisions based on which was the “richer” route.

This decision may be the first brick in the LIV wall to collapse.

It may also lead to other issues for the organization down the road.

The reason is that lawyers and judges like to look at what’s been done in the past, what their colleagues have decided.  It’s called precedent.

Even the Supreme Court of the US looks at precedent in deciding cases.  They like to have a trail of logic that runs from the laws that have been written to the decisions that have been made by other judges to the case in front of them. And they like it to agree.

Of course, it doesn’t always, and so that’s why things get interesting.  That’s also why there is more than one judge deciding Supreme Court decisions.

They may not agree on what has been decided in the past when it comes to a new case, and so they vote, and the majority rules all of us.

However, what’s important here is, in the case of LIV golfers versus the PGA Tour, we now have an established legal decision by a federal judge on whether or not the PGA Tour can suspend LIV golfers to keep them from participating in its tournaments if they violated PGA Tour rules.

The PGA Tour CAN suspend them. A judge has decided. The decision is a precedent for any future, similar situations.

Finally, someone has called Greg Norman on his loose chatter and promises.  He clearly didn’t know what he was talking about when it came to suspensions.  Often, he called it a ban, although the PGA Tour handbook doesn’t use that language.

It says fine, suspend and bar from playing in events.  Suspension, at least, seems to leave the door open in the future. Barring might allow a way back.  Banning is what used to happen to naughty books in Boston.

However, as one legal event comes to a close, it does not completely define the future of LIV or the future of the other lawsuit.

We cannot expect this result to dampen the enthusiasm that LIV golfers have for their tour, but at least now everybody knows that the PGA Tour rules count.

For PGA Tour players who have been badgered with endless questions about the LIV series, finally, a higher authority has given them a sense of belief that they are in the right for wanting to keep the defectors out, at least for now. And they know that the suspensions that have been issued and the PGA Tour rules were “legal.”

Hold your head high, Rory, Davis, Justin, Billy, and the rest.

As sports law professor Jodi Balsam, Brooklyn Law School, said on Golf Channel after the judge issued her decision, the result vindicates the action of the PGA Tour and gives pause to other golfers who might have been thinking about doing something similar.

She said the PGA Tour has been given the right to have its rules although it may have to change some of them and/ or the way it handles penalties in the future.

Can Slumping Collin Morikawa Come Alive During The Playoffs?. dark. Next

However, with regard to the anti-trust case, which won’t begin until sometime in 2023, Balsam said that the result may be that the PGA Tour has to “do business differently,” but we will have to wait another year or two to find out for sure.

In the interim, since the LIV players want a jury trial, we are likely to find out all the details of the contracts offered to the players who are suing.  It will be part of what is called discovery.

This is where it will turn into a bunch of rich guys complaining that they can’t get richer because somehow the PGA Tour stopped them.

Can’t wait to see it unfold.