Multiple PGA Tour Winner Questions The Legality Of Banning LIV Players

Hunter Mahan can see golf’s power struggle being settled in the courts

Hunter Mahan likes that players have a choice of where to play, and feels any threat to that could end up in court
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Hunter Mahan has questioned whether it’s legal to ban players who take part in LIV Golf events, and feels there’s a big court case coming unless something changes.

The PGA Tour was quick to issue indefinite suspensions to players taking part in LIV events, and there have been murmurings about Majors bans, although the R&A has denied that. But six-time PGA Tour winner Mahan, talking to Golf.com’s Subpar podcast, questioned whether banning LIV Players from events would stand up in court. 

“Is that legal,” asked Mahan. “How do you do that? How do you say because you’re not part of the PGA Tour but you’re part of the Asian Tour and you can play, you’re part of the European Tour and you’ve earned the right to play, you’re now part of the LIV Tour but you’ve qualified to play but we’re not gonna let you play? 

“That’s a lawsuit and I don’t think they’re going to win that. I’ve talked to quite a few people and everyone’s like ‘you can’t just do that, you can’t just tell someone they can’t do something when they’ve earned the right to do it’. I don’t know what the answer is, I want to see the best in play but this is also what leverage looks like, it’s sort of uncomfortable.”

Henrik Stenson, Jason Kokrak and Charles Howell III became the latest players to join LIV last week, and all three are set to be in the field at the third LIV Golf Series event, starting later this week in New Jersey. LIV CEO Greg Norman last week revealed his breakaway series is still attracting interest from the top players in the world in its inaugural season, and more big names are expected to come on board before the fully fledged league format launches in 2023.

“The players are the ones winning in this situation,” Mahan told the Subpar podcast. “How can I sit there and tell them, no, you’re not allowed to take that. It seems like the players are the ones who are going to benefit but I hope the game of golf is going to benefit too. I’m a little worried for the fans. Are we not going to see these players compete against each other?”

Mahan feels the PGA Tour needs to get more aggressive in fighting off the threat from LIV, especially when it comes to signing up the younger guys who have the potential to be the stars of the future. Some have criticised LIV for pursuing players perceived to be past their best and looking for a last payday, but Norman has also targeted young up and comers, with World No.2 amateur Eugenio Chacarra reportedly signing a three-year deal last month.

It was reported back in May that LIV had approached the top six amateurs in the world including Pierceson Coody, who is said to have rejected an offer from LIV, James Piot, who reportedly took $1million to sign up, Alex Fitzpatrick, who turned down over $2million and Arizona State senior, David Puig, who competed in the LIV opener at Centurion, but as an amateur.

Mahan feels like the PGA Tour should act now to guarantee the likes of Coody, who won the Live and Work in Maine Open on the Korn Ferry Tour last June, a future on the PGA Tour.

He said: “The PGA Tour’s gonna have to start really working with the young college players and they’re gonna have to start selling themselves, because LIV’s coming. We’ve already seen that with Eugenio, number two amateur, they’re coming after the young guys. James Piot, he’s on the LIV Tour, Chacarra’s over there. They’re selling themselves to the young players and the PGA Tour’s gonna have to do that.

“Pierceson Coodey, he already won on the Korn Ferry Tour. If I was the Tour, I’m probably gonna talk to him and say ‘You’re on the PGA Tour now. We want you on this Tour. You’re a bad ass, we want you on here because you’re the future of golf. We don’t need to go through this whole process, we want you here right now’.

Mahan says he is happy for golfers to have the right to choose where they play, but he had an ominous warning as he looked towards the future.

“I’m happy for the guys playing on the LIV Tour,” he said, “And I’m happy for the PGA Tour players making their own choices. Choices are usually never a bad thing. This is far from over.”

Jeff Kimber
Jeff Kimber

Jeff graduated from Leeds University in Business Studies and Media in 1996 and did a post grad in journalism at Sheffield College in 1997. His first jobs were on Slam Dunk (basketball) and Football Monthly magazines, and he's worked for the Sunday Times, Press Association and ESPN. He has faced golfing greats Sam Torrance and Sergio Garcia, but on the poker felt rather than the golf course. Jeff's favourite course played is Sandy Lane in Barbados, which went far better than when he played Matfen Hall in Northumberland, where he crashed the buggy on the way to the 1st tee!