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Phil Mickelson, three others pull out of LIV Golf lawsuit against PGA Tour

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 9/27/2022 Rick Maese
“I am focused on moving forward and extremely happy being a part of LIV,” Phil Mickelson said in a statement. (TANNEN MAURY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock) © Tannen Maury/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock “I am focused on moving forward and extremely happy being a part of LIV,” Phil Mickelson said in a statement. (TANNEN MAURY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Phil Mickelson, the face of a federal antitrust case against the PGA Tour, has pulled out of the lawsuit, along with three other LIV Golf players.

Mickelson formally dismissed his claims against the PGA Tour on Tuesday morning, according to notices filed with the U.S. District Court in Northern California, along with fellow LIV golfers Talor Gooch, Ian Poulter and Hudson Swafford.

They were among 11 golfers who sued the PGA Tour on Aug. 3, claiming the tour harmed their careers by suspending them from PGA events and hindered LIV Golf’s efforts to launch a competitive league.

Now only three golfers remain: Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Jones and Peter Uihlein. LIV Golf, the controversial Saudi-funded start-up that has upended the professional golf world, was not initially a party to the case but joined the lawsuit Aug. 26.

LIV Golf joins its players in lawsuit, intensifying feud with PGA Tour

“I am focused on moving forward and extremely happy being a part of LIV, while also grateful for my time on the Tour,” Mickelson said in a statement. “I am pleased that the players on Tour are finally being heard, respected, and valued and are benefitting from the changes recently implemented. With LIV’s involvement in these issues, the players’ rights will be protected, and I no longer feel it is necessary for me to be part of the proceedings.”

By exiting the lawsuit at an early stage, the players don’t necessarily have the same level of exposure to discovery and LIV Golf emerges as the primary courtroom foe to the PGA Tour as it pursues its antitrust claims.

“Nothing has changed. The merits of the case — the PGA Tour’s anti-competitive conduct — still stand and will be fully tested in court,” said Jonathan Grella, an LIV Golf spokesman. “And we look forward to that. LIV stands with the players whom the PGA Tour has treated so poorly, but we also recognize that to be successful, we no longer need a wide array of players to be on the suit.”

Two of the players who pulled out of the lawsuit Tuesday — Gooch and Swafford — tried unsuccessfully to gain entry into the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs by requesting a temporary restraining order in the case. U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman denied their request last month, saying the players failed to demonstrate their exclusion from the tour’s season-ending event amounted to “irreparable harm.”

“Now that we’re past the PGA Tour season, and with LIV involved in these important issues, it’s unnecessary that I remain part of the case,” Swafford said in a statement. “I have confidence this case will demonstrate the anti-competitive behavior of the PGA Tour.”

Four other plaintiffs from the initial complaint dropped out of the lawsuit last month: Abraham Ancer, Jason Kokrak, Pat Perez and Carlos Ortiz.

The PGA Tour has denied the antitrust charges and is expected to file its formal response to LIV Golf’s amended complaint this week. The trial is currently scheduled to begin in January 2024.

The LIV Golf Invitational Series will stage its sixth event next week in Bangkok. Since LIV launched this year, luring away several of the PGA Tour’s biggest names with eight- and even nine-figure contracts, the PGA Tour has been forced to make significant changes, increasing tournament purses, beefing up its bonus system and ensuring that its top 20 players will compete in at least 20 events, including the four majors and the FedEx Cup playoffs.

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