The PGA Tour has lashed Australian Open winner Matt Jones for trying to “free ride” on the benefits of a tour he ”walked away from” after he was named among 11 LIV Golf defectors who launched legal action in the US.
Jones is among the players, including Phil Mickelson, who were banned by the PGA tour after joining Greg Norman’s Saudi-backed breakaway and now want their suspensions lifted.
Three of those players, including two-time Australian Open champ Jones, are also asking for a temporary restraining order to allow them to play in the FedEx Cup playoffs, which are due to start next week, with LIV events done for 2022.
But in a searing response, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan declared they would “vigorously” defend their legal position and in a letter to all members asked them to speak out publicly against those who “turned their back” on the tour, including Jones.
Monahan went hard at Jones and those seeking to re-enter the FedEx Cup playoffs for trying to “force their way” back into a competition they knew they would be banned from and “free ride” on PGA Tour members’ benefits.
“Fundamentally, these suspended players – who are now Saudi Golf League employees – have walked away from the tour and now want back in,” he wrote.
“With the Saudi golf league on hiatus, they’re trying to use lawyers to force their way into competition alongside our members in good standing.
“It’s an attempt to use the tour to promote themselves and to free ride on your benefits and efforts.
“To allow re-entry to into our events compromises the tour and the competition to the detriment of our organisation, our players and our fans.
“The lawsuit they have filed somehow expects us to believe the opposite, which is why we intend to make our case clearly and vigorously.”
The lawsuit filed by the players alleges that the PGA Tour not only has threatened golfers who sought to play in LIV tournaments, it also “threatened sponsors, vendors, and agents to coerce players to abandon opportunities to play in LIV Golf events”.
It also claims that the PGA Tour “orchestrated a per se unlawful group boycott with the European Tour to deny LIV Golf access to their members” and “leaned on” groups that put on golf’s four major championships, pressuring them into banning LIV golfers from competing in the sport’s most high-profile events.
The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland and escalated golf’s war to a new level, with other LIV players having already taken action in Europe after being suspended and fined by the DP World Tour.
While Jones is the highest-profile Aussie playing for Norman and LIV, British Open champion Cameron Smith remains a target for 2023, as does Adam Scott and Marc Leishman.
Successful legal action could prove a big tick for those players who could be able to take the big money from Norman without having their opportunities to play major championships being adversely affected.
Earlier this week, golfing great and Team USA Presidents Cup captain Davis Love III declared PGA Tour players had “had enough” of LIV converts trying to get back in.
“We make the rules on the PGA Tour and the commissioner‘s enforcing our rules and we don’t want those guys playing and cherrypicking our tournaments,” he said.
“If we say to the FTC and to Washington, ‘No, we support the rules, we don’t want those guys playing, we don’t care what the courts say’, our only option really, the nuclear option, is to say, ‘Well, fine, if they have to play in our events, we just won‘t play’.
“We support the PGA Tour and we support the rules and we need to stand up for them.”