PGA Tour Australian Open winner Matt Jones has been criticized for trying to get a “free ride” on his tour benefits after being named among 11 LIV golfers taking legal action in the US.
Jones is among the players, including Phil Mickelson, who were banned from the PGA Tour after joining Greg Norman’s Saudi-backed breakaway and now want their bans lifted.
The three players, including two-time Australian Open champion Jones, are seeking a temporary restraining order to allow them to play in next week’s FedEx Cup playoffs, while LIV arrangements for 2022 are made.
But in a heartbreaking response, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said he would “vigorously” defend his legal position and in a letter to all members called on those who “turned their backs” on the tour, including Jones, publicly.
Monahan went hard on Jones and those seeking to re-enter the FedEx Cup playoffs for trying to “force their way” back on a tournament they know will be banned and a “free ride” on PGA Tour member benefits.
“Essentially these banned players – now employees of the Saudi Golf League – have left the tour and now want to get back in,” he wrote.
“With the suspension of the Saudi Golf League, they are using lawyers to try to compete with our members in good standing.
“It’s an attempt to use the tour to promote themselves and drive your benefits and efforts.
“Allowing re-entry into our events would harm the tour and the tournament, our organization, our players and our fans.
“Your case would lead us to believe the opposite, which is why we intend to make our case clearly and forcefully.”
The lawsuit filed by the players alleges that the PGA Tour not only intimidates golfers who want to play in LIV events, but also “forces sponsors, vendors and agents to give up opportunities for players to play in LIV golf events.”
It also alleges that the PGA Tour has “organized an illegal team boycott every second with the European Tour to deny LIV Golf access to its members” and pressured teams from golf’s four major championships to bar LIV golfers from competition. In the sport’s most high-profile events.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland, has taken golf’s battle to a new level, with other LIV players taking action in Europe after being banned and fined on the DP World Tour.
While Jones is the highest-profile Aussie playing for Norman and LIV, British Open champion Cameron Smith remains a target for 2023, as do Adam Scott and Marc Leishman.
A successful legal action could prove a huge sign for players who can take big money from Norman without jeopardizing their chances of playing major championships.
Earlier this week, golf’s greatest game and Team USA Presidents Cup captain, Davis Love III, said PGA Tour players had “enough” of LIV replacements trying to get back in.
“We make the rules on the PGA Tour and we don’t want the commissioner to enforce our rules and let those people play and pick our tournaments,” he said.
“To the FTC and Washington, ‘No, we support the rules, we don’t want those people playing, we don’t care what the courts say,’ our only option is the nuclear option. Say, ‘Okay, well, if they have to play at our events, we won’t play.’
“We support the PGA Tour and we support the rules and we have to stand up for them.”