Officials at Augusta National, which runs the Masters tournament, allegedly tried to persuade players to not join LIV Golf.
That’s according to the details of an antitrust lawsuit that Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and nine other players who bolted from the PGA Tour to the controversial Saudi-backed league filed against the PGA Tour on Wednesday. The 105-page document, which also says that Mickelson was suspended by the tour in March for trying to recruit players to LIV, states that the tour urged Augusta National officials to attend a player advisory council meeting in May, shortly before LIV held its first tournament.
“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,” the lawsuit reads. “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.”
Officials did not attend the meeting, according to the suit, but they did tell players in attendance at the meeting that the tour and Augusta National had agreed to work together in addressing LIV, according to the plaintiffs.
“The threat of exlcusion from the Masters (and other majors) is a powerful weapon in the Tour’s arsenal to deter players from joining LIV Golf,” the suit says. It also claims that Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley personally instructed several players from this year’s Masters not to tee it up in LIV Golf tournaments.
The lawsuit also says that Ridley declined a request for a meeting from LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman.
Augusta National did not respond to a message from The Post seeking comment, though sources have previously told The Post it’s expected that the club, which is arguably the most powerful body in the sport, would side with the PGA Tour. To what extent, however, is unclear.
Golf’s other major championships — specifically last month’s British Open and the U.S. Open in June — allowed LIV golfers to compete in their tournaments but have largely spoken out against LIV.
In May, prior to the first LIV tournament a few weeks later, PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh said that LIV was “flawed” and reiterated that players who joined the circuit might not be eligible for future PGA Championships or the Ryder Cup. The following month, USGA CEO Mike Whan said he was “struggling to see” how LIV’s battle with the tour is good for the game. And at last month’s British Open at St. Andrews, R&A chief Martin Slumbers said LIV “is not in the best long-term interest of the sport as a whole and is entirely driven by money.”
Currently, there are five former Masters champions playing for LIV Golf — Mickelson (a three-time winner), Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson, a two-time green jacket winner who became the latest player to make the leap to LIV. It’s unclear whether they would be banned from playing in the Masters next April.
Though officials at Augusta National have yet to speak publicly since the launch of LIV, Ridley’s comments back in April were different from what was presented in the lawsuit.
“Our mission is to always act in the best interest of the game in whatever form that may take,” Ridley said then. “I think that golf is in a good place right now. There’s more participation, the purses on the professional tours are the highest they’ve ever been. We’ve been pretty clear in our belief that the world tours have done a great job in promoting the game over the years. Beyond that, there’s so much that we don’t know about what might happen or what could happen, I can’t say much more beyond that.”