Justice Department investigating PGA Tour over LIV Golf spat

DOJ looking for any potential antitrust violations after commissioner of Ponte Vedra Beach-based PGA Tour suspended any players who take part in LIV Golf events

Federal agents are now investigating the PGA Tour in an ongoing spat with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Federal agents are now investigating the PGA Tour in an ongoing spat with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.

The Department of Justice is looking for any potential antitrust violations after the PGA Tour’s commissioner suspended any players who take part in LIV Golf events.

Many people are critical of players who join LIV Golf because it’s funded by Saudi Arabia, a country accused of human rights violations.

The PGA Tour, based in Ponte Vedra Beach, is the longtime leader in U.S. professional golf. But LIV Golf is giving the PGA Tour a run for its money by winning over big-name golfers with massive, guaranteed paychecks.

“I just don’t see how that move is positive in the long term for a lot of these players, especially if the LIV organization doesn’t get world-ranking points and they don’t, in the major championships, change their criteria for entering the events,” PGA Tour golfer and 15-time major champion Tiger Woods said Tuesday during a news conference at the British Open in St. Andrews, Scotland,

Woods spoke in support of the PGA Tour — critical of LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman.

“I know Greg tried to do this back in the early ‘90s. It didn’t work then. and he’s trying to make it work now. And I still don’t see how that’s in the best interests of the game,” Woods said.

U.S golfer Tiger Woods lines up a putt on the 7th green during a practice round at the British Open golf championship on the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, Monday, July 11, 2022. The Open Championship returns to the home of golf on July 14-17, 2022, to celebrate the 150th edition of the sport's oldest championship, which dates to 1860 and was first played at St. Andrews in 1873. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has taken heat for indefinitely suspending any players involved in LIV Golf, setting the field for a legal battle.

“It leaves the question,” said longtime PGA Tour golfer Len Mattiace, who’s competed in over 450 events. “People are thinking is it a lifetime suspension?”

Mattiace told News4JAX that this is a tricky subject.

“Here’s a tour that is throwing a lot of money at players — guaranteed money,” Mattiace said. “And that is the exact opposite of what the PGA Tour is all about, about performance, you know, you’re only as good as how you perform that week.”

PGA Tour golfer Len Mattiace has competed in more than 450 events. (Provided to WJXT)

Mattiace said a player has to get the PGA Tour’s permission to play anywhere else, so this fight will surely end up in court.

He said it’s “probably a good thing” to have the Department of Justice just take a look at everything that’s going on.

“Ultimately, this is going to be decided in the courts. I mean, judges, one judge or a panel of judges is going to decide a number of things that we’re just talking about, you know, can a commissioner decide to suspend a player indefinitely? Does the player have to get a conflicting events release form? And if they apply for one, does it matter what toward they’re applying it for?” Mattiace said.

The PGA Tour released this statement to News4JAX:

“This was not unexpected. We went through this in 1994 and are confident in a similar outcome.”

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.