By Phil Casey, PA Golf Correspondent
Rory McIlroy has welcomed the “common sense” decision of a US federal judge to rule against three LIV Golf players who had sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) to allow them to contest the FedEx Cup play-offs.
Judge Beth Labson Freeman said Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones were “well aware of the consequences” of their actions in competing in LIV events without permission and had not “made their case” against being suspended by the PGA Tour as a result.
The trio have therefore not been added to the field for the FedEx St Jude Championship, the first of three play-off events which gets under way at TPC Southwind in Memphis on Thursday.
Speaking at a pre-tournament press conference, McIlroy said: “From my vantage point common sense prevailed and I thought it was the right decision.
“It just lets us focus on the important stuff, which is the golf. We can all move forward and not have that sideshow going on for the next few weeks, which is nice.”
The TRO hearing was separate from the broader antitrust lawsuit initially filed against the PGA Tour by 11 players, including Phil Mickelson and Ian Poulter. Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz has subsequently withdrawn his name.
McIlroy admitted the suit had made the ongoing battle between the PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed breakaway “a little more personal”, adding: “The thing I would say is I certainly have a little more respect for the guys that haven’t put their names to the suit.
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“Guys are going to make their own decisions they feel are best for them and that’s totally fine. I don’t begrudge anyone for going to play LIV and taking guaranteed money.
“I think where the resentment comes from is the fact they want to try to get their way back in here with no consequences. Anyone that’s read the PGA Tour handbook or abided by the rules and regulations, that would feel very unfair to them.”
Judge Freeman said the potential loss of income from the FedEx Cup play-offs had been taken into account when the players signed their LIV contracts.
“It appears to the court that the LIV contracts, negotiated by the players and consummated between the parties, were based upon the players’ calculation of what they would be leaving behind and the amount the players would need to monetise to compensate for those losses,” Freeman said in quotes reported by SI.com.
“I do agree with the defendants that those losses were well known to the players at the time and clearly monetised.
“And, in fact, the evidence shows that it seems almost without a doubt that they will be earning more than they have made and could reasonably have expected to make in a reasonable amount of time under the PGA (Tour).”
In response, LIV Golf issued a short statement which read: “We’re disappointed that Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones won’t be allowed to play golf.
“No one gains by banning golfers from playing.”
Judge Freeman said the earliest a trial resulting from the antitrust lawsuit could start would be August 2023.
“There’s such a long way to go,” McIlroy said.
“It’s like you birdie the first hole and you’ve still got 17 holes to go but, it was a good day for the Tour and the majority of the membership yesterday.”