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12 Jul, 2022 14:08

US Justice Department probes PGA in row with Saudi-backed tour

Potential anti-competitive conduct is being investigated, according to a report
US Justice Department probes PGA in row with Saudi-backed tour

The US Justice Department is looking into whether the PGA Tour has been guilty of anti-competitive behavior amid a bitter rivalry with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series. 

Several big names of the sport such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Bryson DeChambeau have fled to the LIV league bankrolled by the mammoth Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Johnson, plus other players such as Sergio Garcia and Patrick Reed, have resigned their membership from the PGA Tour, which has issued indefinite suspensions to members that have taken part in the LIV series' first two events. 

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the Department of Justice's (DOJ) anti-trust division has already contacted players' agents to discuss the PGA Tour's recent penalties in reaction to LIV Golf and its bylaws.

"This was not unexpected," said the PGA Tour in a statement.

"We went through this in 1994 and we are confident in a similar outcome."

In the 1990s, the Federal Trade Commission investigated the PGA Tour’s practices of requiring releases to compete in events that didn't form part of its jurisdiction as well as how permission had to be sought to play golf on non-PGA Tour televised events.

FTC investigators ascertained in 1994 that both rules were a breach of anti-trust laws, yet no action was ever taken.

In that same year, modern-day LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman attempted to launch a World Golf Tour that failed to take off. 

Norman has maintained that he wants to work alongside the PGA Tour so that LIV players can work on both circuits, but PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has made it clear how that won't be possible.

The DOJ declined to comment on the investigation when contacted by USA Today.

But it is arguably notable that US President Joe Biden once vowed to make Saudi Arabia a 'pariah' over the 2018 murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents inside the consulate in Istanbul.

The hit was allegedly ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who denied involvement, but the DOJ could be seen as siding with the kingdom in the golfing row as it probes the PGA. 

This week, Biden will also travel to the Middle East on a tour that contains a Saudi Arabia leg.

The Los Angeles Times has tipped oil to be top of the agenda as the president attempts to persuade Saudi Arabia to add millions of barrels of crude oil to the market. 

This will help bring down rocketing global prices and provide alternatives to Russian oil in Europe amid the military operation in Ukraine as fears linger in the continent that Russia could cut its energy supplies off.

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