New year, old yarn

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A court ruling is expected next month as to whether LIV golfers can continue to play on the DP World Tour
Posted on
January 23, 2023
by
Robert Green in
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

The opening individual tournament of the DP World Tour’s new season began last week in Abu Dhabi and ended yesterday with victory for Victor Perez. At the beginning of the week there had been an interesting sideshow with the return to the tour in Europe of Henrik Stenson, the 2016 Open champion and the man who would have been the Ryder Cup captain in Italy this coming September had he not joined LIV Golf last summer. This may or may not become a regular kind of occurrence – a court ruling is expected next month as to whether LIV golfers can continue to play on the DP World Tour despite the tour preferring they be prohibited from doing so – but Stenson was insistent that he had been well received by those peers who had not similarly rebelled against officialdom.

New year, old yarn
Henrik Stenson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

His appearance was given an added piquancy by the fact that the first-round leader at the Yas Links, with a 64, was Luke Donald, the man who was handed Stenson’s role in Rome when the Swede defected. (BTW, Donald finished the week tied for 38th; Stenson tied for 20th.) The impending legal judgement is expected to provide clarity as to whether LIV golfers might be eligible to represent Europe in the Ryder Cup (it is, after all, Europe vs the United States; not the DP World Tour vs the PGA Tour). This could have significant ramifications for the likes of, for example, Adrian Otaegui. Matt Fitzpatrick, the current US Open champion, has said he hopes the European team will be as strong as it can be; he doubtless vividly remembers the thrashing the visitors were handed at Whistling Straits two years ago. On the other hand, perhaps, Jon Rahm, his predecessor as US Open champ, said: “I don’t think it would be smart to have one team allowing LIV players and one not.” It seems, however, that the US team will definitely include no LIV golfers.

And what of LIV Golf itself? The first event on its 2023 schedule tees off in Cancun, Mexico, in a month’s time. There has been quite a lot going on in the meantime since its 2022 schedule concluded at the end of October, including the resignation of Atul Khosla, its chief operating officer. Nevertheless, the relentlessly upbeat Greg Norman, front man for the fledgling billion-dollar bonanza, described one development last week as “momentous”: LIV Golf had signed a deal with The CW Network to broadcast its tournaments. This is progress, but likely only baby steps: Friday rounds will only be shown on an app and no rights fee is involved.

Keith Pelley, chief executive of the European Tour Group, was not in Abu Dhabi. He was instead preparing for that forthcoming arbitration hearing. I’m figuring that lawyers were also involved. Lawyers are most certainly involved in the United States. According to a recent article by Eamon Lynch in Golfweek, the situation in a Northern District California courtroom could get interesting, despite the inherent-sounding tedium in that sentence.

LIV Golf has therein filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the PGA Tour. The Tour has counter-sued. The latter action involves the Tour seeking discovery regarding the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, which is underwriting LIV Golf. Early indications are that, to no surprise, the Saudis seem reluctant to supply information. The provisional trial date for the US court case is next January. But what if the Saudis determine that pursuing the LIV Golf lawsuit might not be worth the possible consequences?

You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog  f-factors.com plus you can read more by him on golf at robertgreengolf.com.

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About Robert Green

Robert Green is a former editor of Golf World and Golf International magazines and the author of four books on golf, including Seve: Golf’s Flawed Genius. He has played golf on more than 450 courses around the world, occasionally acceptably.

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