Judge rejects 3 LIV golfers’ request to compete in FedEx Cup Playoffs

A judge ruled LIV golfers Talor Gooch (pictured), Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones will not be allowed to play in the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Playoffs? Not for Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford. A federal judge on Tuesday rejected the three LIV golfers’ request for a temporary restraining order that would have allowed them to compete in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs, which kick off Thursday in Memphis.

Gooch, Jones and Swafford had all qualified for the season-ending playoff series based on FedEx Cup points, but that was before they were suspended by the PGA Tour for signing on with the rival LIV circuit.

In seeking a temporary restraining order, or TRO, against the Tour, they were hoping to have their suspensions lifted prior to Thursday’s start of the FedEx St. Jude. But in Tuesday’s hearing at a U.S. district courthouse here, Judge Beth Labson Freeman opted not to grant a TRO, saying the plaintiffs had failed to show their suspensions would cause them “irreparable harm,” a key legal standard in such cases.

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Judge Freeman’s decision came after nearly two hours of arguments by opposing counsels, with attorneys for the plaintiffs arguing that the three golfers were being unfairly blocked from competing in a marquee series of events that offer not only millions of dollars in prize money but also entry into the four majors and other prestigious invitationals.

But Judge Freeman ultimately sided with attorneys for the Tour, who argued that any downsides the golfers stood to suffer all came down to money, which alone does not meet the standard for irreparable harm.

Not only were the golfers not suffering such harm, the judge noted during the hearing, but they had in fact been compensated by lucrative LIV contracts that more than outweighed any financial opportunities they might miss out on due to their suspensions.

Today’s hearing was separate from an antitrust suit filed against the Tour last week by a group of LIV golfers, alleging that the Tour is unlawfully sanctioning them for signing on with the rival circuit. Gooch, Jones and Swafford are also plaintiffs in that case, along with Phil Mickelson and six others. Another LIV pro, Carlos Ortiz, who was initially part of that plaintiff group, withdrew his name from that suit today.

Antitrust suits can drag on for years. But at the close of Tuesday’s hearing, Judge Freeman said she could be ready to start that trial as early as fall 2023, assuming both sides are prepared to present their cases.

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A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.