Augusta National representatives allegedly threatened to disinvite LIV Golf players from this year's Masters if they left the PGA Tour to join the Saudi-backed league, according to a lawsuit filed by Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and nine others looking to obtain a temporary restraining order to compete in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs.
The lawsuit reads, per Golfweek's Adam Schupak:
“Augusta National, the promoter of The Masters, has taken multiple actions to indicate its alignment with the PGA Tour, thus seeding doubt among top professional golfers whether they would be banned from future Masters Tournaments. As an initial matter, the links between the PGA Tour and Augusta National run deep. The actions by Augusta National indicate that the PGA Tour has used these channels to pressure Augusta National to do its bidding. For example, in February, 2022 Augusta National representatives threatened to disinvite players from The Masters if they joined LIV Golf.”
The lawsuit also alleges that Augusta National officials were asked by the PGA Tour to attend a player advisory council meeting in May to discuss consequences for players that joined the LIV Golf Invitational Series.
According to the lawsuit, officials didn't attend the meeting but did tell players that the PGA Tour and Augusta National agreed to work together in response to LIV Golf.
It also accuses Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley of working against the Saudi-backed league. He allegedly told players that participated in the 2022 Masters to not play in the LIV Golf Invitational Series.
"Plainly, these threats to top players served no beneficial purpose, as they would only serve to weaken the field in the Masters," the lawsuit said.
In addition, Ridley also declined to meet with LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman to "understand the new circuit's business model," per ESPN's Mark Schlabach.
Mickelson, DeChambeau and nine others filed their lawsuit against the PGA Tour on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court of Northern California.
They requested that Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones be given temporary restraining orders in order to compete in the FedEx Cup playoffs, which begin next week in Memphis, Tennessee.
"The punishment that would accrue to these players from not being able to play in the FedEx Cup Playoffs is substantial and irreparable," the golfers' attorneys wrote in the lawsuit, per Schlabach, "and a temporary restraining order is needed to prevent the irreparable harm that would ensue were they not to be able to participate."
Players who have joined the LIV Golf Invitational Series are facing significant suspensions from the PGA Tour. According to the lawsuit, players who appeared in the Saudi-backed league's first three tournaments are facing two-year suspensions through March 2024.
The U.S. Department of Justice has since opened an investigation into the PGA Tour's treatment of players and whether or not it has engaged in "anticompetitive behavior" amid its feud with LIV Golf, per ESPN.