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Home » PGA Tour Granted Permission to Question Saudi Supporters of LIV Golf

PGA Tour Granted Permission to Question Saudi Supporters of LIV Golf

18 February 2023, Saturday
A judge in the United States has decided that Yasir al-Rumayyan, the leader of the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, must give evidence and provide documentation in the antitrust case that LIV Golf has raised against the PGA Tour.  The Riyadh-based investment fund is the financial backer of LIV Golf.

Al-Rumayyan and the PIF's lawyers had asked for the subpoenas to be disregarded, reasoning that they should be given sovereign immunity.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan van Keulen determined on Thursday night that PIF's activities are encompassed by the commercial activity exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act, thus allowing the PGA Tour to look for documents and any associated communication involving LIV Golf, such as recruitment and bargaining of players, its commercial plans, and its participation in the new league.

The PGA Tour has seen a victory recently as a ruling has been made that may unveil the business deals of the PIF. This ruling comes one week before LIV Golf is set to start its second season, where it will be offering $25 million in prizes for the 13 events and a further $50 million for the finale of the team tournament.

In August, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau were among the 11 players who initiated the antitrust lawsuit and LIV Golf later joined. Eventually, all but three players, Matt Jones, Peter Uihlein, and DeChambeau, removed themselves as plaintiffs. In her 58-page ruling, which was partially redacted, van Keulen pointed out that the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia was involved in the interests of commerce. As a result, any trial in the legal battle will not begin until January 2024, at the earliest.

The PGA Tour has been accused of utilizing monopolistic powers to quash competition by LIV Golf. This issue was recently brought to the surface in a courtroom where a judge ruled that the Public Investment Fund in Saudi Arabia, which is the moving force behind the establishment, funding and operations of the rival league, is engaging in commerce. According to the judge, the PIF's activities are not simply those of an investor and their leader, Yasir al-Rumayyan, has played a major role in the PIF's actions.

Last year, 48 players competed in the Saudi-backed league for $20 million in individual prize money and an additional $5 million purse set aside for four-person teams. Dustin Johnson proved to be one of the most successful players and ended up taking home a total of $35.6 million in winnings and bonuses. Other players of great renown, such as Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka, were signed with reported fees of up to $150 million.

The PGA Tour has responded to LIV’s challenge with the creation of "elevated" events, such as the Genesis Invitational this week in Los Angeles, which offers a whopping $20 million in prize money. The top players, led by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, are at the forefront of constructing a new model for the PGA Tour, with the goal of bringing the best players together more often.

As a result, the PGA Tour has suspended players for breaking its membership regulations, one of which requires a release to interact in tournaments held outside of the United States.

This year, LIV Golf has 8 events held in the United States.

This offseason, LIV Golf secured a television contract with The CW, allowing tournaments to be broadcast in the U.S. Markets, rather than only being available on YouTube or live streaming. However, Majed Al Sorour, CEO of Golf Saudi and former managing director of LIV Golf was transitioned out of his role last month, as part of a larger offseason shakeup, which saw the departure of the chief operating officer, chief marketing officer, and chief communications officer.

The circuit has also just added two more players to the roster for its second season, Mito Pereira of Chile, who is ranked No. 46 in the world, and Sebastian Munoz of Colombia, who is ranked No. 96.
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