The Justice Department is now involved in the feud between the PGA Tour and its new, Saudi-backed rival. PGA Tour insiders tell the Wall Street Journal that the department is investigating alleged anticompetitive behavior by the tour against LIV Golf and has been speaking to players' agents about PGA bylaws restricting players' ability to play in non-PGA events. The new league has created a huge rift in the world of golf, and the PGA Tour indefinitely suspended 17 players, including big names like Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, for taking part in an LIV event last month.
LIV Golf told players in a letter this year that if the PGA Tour banned players who signed up with its rival, it would "likely cause the federal government to investigate and punish the PGA Tour's unlawful practices," the Journal reports. "There is simply no recognized justification for banning independent contractor professional golfers for simply contracting to play professional golf." LIV, which is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, has been offering record prize money, along with huge signing and appearance fees.
PGA Tour rules were investigated by the Federal Trade Commission in 1994, and no action was taken. The new probe "was not unexpected," a PGA Tour spokesman tells the Journal. "We went through this in 1994 and we are confident in a similar outcome." CNBC reports that when the tour suspended the 17 players, it told members that players who had chosen LIV "for their own financial-based reasons" couldn't expect the same opportunities and benefits from the PGA Tour. "That expectation disrespects you, our fans and our partners," a memo to members said. (Read more golf stories.)