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Coverage of federal court hearing as LIV golfers petition to play in FedExCup Playoffs

Three LIV Tour players head to court to attempt to be a part of the FedEx Cup Playoffs this afternoon. Here’s a full recap of the proceedings and decision.

Talor Gooch of the United States looks on during Day Three of The 150th Open at St Andrews Old Course on July 16, 2022 in St Andrews, Scotland. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Judge Freeman DENIES the temporary restraining order for Talor Gooch, Matt Jones, and Hudson Swafford. They will not play in the 2022 FedEx Cup Playoffs.

6:35 p.m. We’re done for the day here. This will be an interesting case to follow, but the short-term drama has ended, and the trio of LIV golfers will not be in Memphis for the St. Jude Championship on Thursday.

6:31 p.m. Judge Freeman begins to set a schedule for the rest of the antitrust case, beginning with hearings at the end of September and early October. Summary judgement would be heard on March 9, 2023, and the full trial would begin August 7, 2023. If the attorneys don’t accept that timeline, trial might be set for as late as 2025.

6:27 p.m. Judge Freeman says the TRO filing was timely, and that the players have a reasonable expectation of winning. But the players LIV contracts were “based upon the players calculation of what they would be leaving behind.”

6:05 p.m. We are in a 15-minute recess, after which Judge Freeman will rule on the temporary restraining order.

6:03 p.m. When Judge Freeman asks if the three players will show up in LIV gear in Memphis: “Absolutely not” says Walters, which means the players won’t be billboards for the other tour if the TRO is granted. Still seems like Freeman is leaning towards not granting it however.

“I do think irreparable harm is a problem for you,” says Freeman, which is one of the standards needed to grant a TRO.

5:50 p.m. Mr. Peters has concluded his argument, and Mr. Walters is back for LIV to make his final case.

5:49 p.m. We see a lot of this going around the internet, and it was certainly said by LIV attorney Robert Walters.

But here’s the thing: Walters also said the Arnold Palmer Classic is in Ohio (it’s in Orlando). He conflated the John Deere Classic with the Byron Nelson Invitational, which is one of the tournaments he was arguing his clients should eventually be allowed to play because of its different exemption requirements.

It seemed while watching that Walters just made another mistake around the technical issues involving both LIV and the PGA Tour. He might play golf, but he’s also clearly not someone with an ESPN+ account just to watch PGA Tour Live for the Barbasol Championship.

I think this was just an error, and there was no malicious intent involved.

5:41 p.m. Peters: “This is a dire situation for the Tour.” “The Commissioner did what he was entitled to do,” by suspending the players immediately.

Judge Freeman is going through the PGA Tour by-laws and questioning his interpretation.

5:36 p.m. Appears Judge Freeman was certainly against this TRO at first, but slowly seems to be leaning towards more amenable as she questions PGA Tour attorney Elliot Peters.

Still would be surprised if the TRO went through, but maybe not as much of a slam dunk as it once appeared.

5:33 p.m. LIV Golf is “competing effectively” according to the PGA Tour’s attorney Elliit Peters. Tour commish Jay Monahan just squirmed somewhere in his chair.

5:29 p.m. PGA attorney Elliot Peters says if the three players were allowed to play, “our event becomes a stage for our competitor.” “Wouldn’t LIV Golf love that?” “That’s not fair to the PGA Tour.”

5:23 p.m. Peters in regards to the three players petitioning: “They have made in the last two months than they ever have made on the PGA Tour.”

5:21 p.m. “All of the plaintiffs harms collapse into money,” says PGA Tour attorney Elliot Peters, who is arguing that a TRO isn’t needed because financial renumeration can be granted later if the PGA Tour loses in court.

5:18 p.m. Judge Freeman knows how much the signing bonus was for the three players to join the Tour. Whether or not that ever comes out remains to be seen.

“They’re asking you for an order that the tour lift its suspensions... the status quo is that these players are suspended,” says the plaintiffs attorney.

5:09 p.m. “The PGA Tour is not a monolith... it’s a 501c6 non-profit” “They’re suing the 200 card-carrying members of the Tour.” The Tour “is owned by the members, it’s operated by the members.”

The talking points of the PGA Tour are being parroted on message by PGA Tour attorney

5:00 p.m. The public interest of independent contractors is one of the reasons to move forward here according to Robert Walters.

He closes with “all we’re really saying is ‘just honor your rule,” because the three players haven’t had their appeal heard yet from the PGA Tour Appeals Committee.

4:49 p.m. Fair to say Judge Freeman seems skeptical to grant temporary relief to the players, but seems amenable to the larger case and those arguments have “superficial appeal” she says.

4:42 p.m. The ties between the Saudi Arabian Sovereign Wealth Fund and government with the PGA Tour currently are brought forth as well. Walters says many of the Tour’s current sponsors already have relationships with Saudi Arabia.

No comment from Judge Freeman either way.

4:36 p.m. The John Deere Classic just got slandered. “I wouldn’t be here arguing irreparable harm if this was the John Deere Classic,” says plaintiff counsel Robert Walters.

Coastal elites dismissing Middle America yet again? We kid, Quad Cities. You’re great, I’m sure we’ll get there someday.

4:33 p.m. It’s clear Judge Beth Labson Freeman isn’t following Golf Channel each week, as she’s getting a lesson how players become exempt for majors, invitationals, and more is now being explained. Where are the DataGolf nerds when we need them? Where’s Ryan French as an expert witness?

4:30 p.m. When speaking about “irreparable harm,” Plaintiff counsel compares the FedEx Cup to the Super Bowl and the World Series of professional golf. “This is an extraordinarily attractive financial opportunity,” but Freeman still seems skeptical about granting a TRO when she can just grant relief later if LIV wins in the larger case.

The ability to qualify for the majors as a “gateway” is another place where TRO relief is required according to plaintiff counsel.

4:18 p.m. “On June 30th, that’s when the (PGA Tour) suspended the players,” says a LIV attorney, who states that the players suspension is until March 31 of 2023. The players appealed and were denied in court.

Plaintiffs say the players filed an appeal on July 13, and on July 30 it was referred to an appeals committee by PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan.

4:11 p.m. It certainly sounds like Judge Freeman is leaning against a TRO, though she does have antitrust questions about the rest of the case. Right now the discussion is regarding the PGA Tour moving to get the agreements between LIV and the players they’ve signed.

4:03 p.m. “I’m leaning towards the defendants position,” says Judge Labson Freeman regarding the late filing for the TRO.

4:01 p.m. The judge says she’ll make a ruling orally before the end of this hearing.

3:57 p.m. We are in the Zoom, but as Judge Labson Freeman’s clerk reminds us, there is no recording or taking of any photographs allowed. We really don’t want a federal case on our hands, which this would become, we won’t be adding screenshots.

The judge has come to the bench, and the hearing has begun.

Three members of the LIV Tour will be in Federal Circuit Court this morning in San Jose, California in an effort to participate in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, as they request a temporary restraining order that would require the PGA TOUR to allow them to compete in the FedEx St. Jude Championship in Memphis beginning on Thursday.

We’ll have live coverage of the hearing once it begins in this space, with video, quotes, and more. A direct link to the Zoom broadcast of the hearing is available here.

The hearing on the motion from Talor Gooch, Matt Jones, and Hudson Swafford will be at 4 p.m. PT on Tuesday, with Judge Beth Labson Freeman presiding in the Northern District of California. The hearing will be on Zoom, and we will add that link when it becomes live to this article.

The trio earned enough points during the 2021-22 PGA TOUR season to be in the Top 125, which would have qualified them for the Playoffs, except they have been banished for signing on with LIV during the season. PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan and the rest of the Tour have taken a strong stance against LIV participation, suspending those involved for at least two seasons.

A total of nine golfers that joined the LIV Tour during the 2021-22 season and have not resigned their TOUR membership would have made it to TPC Southwind for the first round of the Playoffs, but only these three are asking to play.

Gooch would be a strong candidate to make it to the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club after the St. Jude and the BMW Championship in Wilmington, Delaware on August 18-21. He currently sits in 20th place in the points race, with Jones in 65th and Swafford in 67th. The top 70 players will survive to the BMW, then the top 30 to East Lake, where the prize for finishing last is $250,000. The winner will take home $18 million.

The restraining order is one part of an antitrust suit that has been filed by LIV against the PGA TOUR. “The punishment that would accrue to these players from not being able to play in the FedEx Cup Playoffs is substantial and irreparable,” said the LIV golfers in their TRO request, which you can read in full here.

“The Tour has unlawfully suspended the TRO plaintiffs from the Tour for almost two years and, as of yesterday, refused to stay these suspensions, as the Tour’s own rules require,” the plaintiffs continue. “Unless restrained, the Tour’s impermissible suspensions will prevent the TRO Plaintiffs from playing in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, which will deny them a crucial opportunity to qualify for next year’s premier professional golf events.”

The PGA Tour filed a blistering response, accusing the players of waiting as long as possible to file to assist in receiving relief, and restating the case for their exclusion.

“Despite knowing full well that they would breach TOUR Regulations and be suspended for doing so, Plaintiffs have joined competing golf league LIV Golf, which has paid them tens and hundreds of millions of dollars in guaranteed money supplied by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund to procure their breaches.”

TRO Plaintiffs now run into Court seeking a mandatory injunction to force their way into the TOUR’s season-ending FedExCup Playoffs, an action that would harm all TOUR members that follow the rules. The antitrust laws do not allow Plaintiffs to have their cake and eat it too.”

They don’t hold back on the LIV Tour as a business either, saying “LIV is the most recent example of ‘sportswashing,’ a strategy by the Saudi government to use sports in an effort to improve its reputation for human rights abuses and other atrocities.”