Department of Justice investigating PGA Tour for antitrust violations

Department found same player policy violated federal law in 1994


Donkey Hotey (Flickr)

The D.O.J. is investigating the PGA Tour

Ole Olafson, Reporter

Earlier this week, it was reported that the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the PGA Tour for antitrust violations stemming from the golf organization’s exceptionally harsh treatment of players seeking to participate in the new LIV Golf Tour.

According to a Monday post in the Wall Street Journal, the issue that seems to be at the heart of the investigation, is the PGA Tour’s refusal to allow its members to participate in LIV events and its subsequent banning of any players who crossed tour lines.

According to the article, even though the PGA Tour’s bylaws allow for its players to compete in up to three overseas events with dates that conflict with PGA events, no releases were granted for the first LIV tournament near London.  Furthermore, any PGA players who shirked the commissioner’s permission and competed for LIV have been suspended indefinitely.

LIV Golf, headed up by former PGA superstar Greg Norman, and financed by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, has been criticized for their acts of conspicuous wealth.  All LIV tournaments feature $25 million dollar purses and guaranteed payouts, not to mention contracts upwards of $150 million.

“If this is an arms race and if the only weapons here are dollar bills, the PGA Tour can’t compete,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said during an interview in June. “The PGA Tour, an American institution, can’t compete with a foreign monarchy that is spending billions of dollars in [an] attempt to buy the game of golf.”

Many are skeptical that LIV’s generosity is merely an attempt by the Saudis to “sportswash” their abysmal human rights record.

Even though the PGA has vowed to not allow LIV golfers to compete in the Masters or PGA Championship, the most major of major championships – the British Open, which is being contested this week, and the U.S. Open, played earlier this summer, allowed LIV golfers to compete.

Interestingly enough, this is the second time that Norman and the PGA have butted heads over a new Tour.  In 1994, Norman headed another rival golf league, the World Tour.  That year, the D.O.J. investigated the PGA for the same policy of not letting players compete in non-PGA sanctioned events and found that it did indeed violate antitrust laws.  In that case, the Federal Trade Commission ultimately decided to not take action against them.