‘That certainly changes the dynamic’: LIV Golf dealt blow in DP World Tour arbitration case: Report

Greg Norman, CEO of LIV Golf, on the first hole during Day Three of the LIV Golf Invitational - Bangkok at Stonehill Golf Course on October 09, 2022 in Pathum Thani.

LIV Golf was dealt a serious blow this week.

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While everyone was focusing on the potential for LIV Golf and PGA Tour players to trade blows at this week’s Masters, the DP World Tour sent one of their own from across the pond.

On Tuesday, The Times of London reported a UK arbitration panel ruled against 13 LIV Golf pros, allowing the reinstatement of fines and suspensions imposed by the DP World Tour for playing in LIV Golf’s first event in London last summer without conflicting event releases. An official announcement from the panel is expected Thursday, before the opening round of the year’s first major.

The panel heard arguments in February from golfers including Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood. It was Poulter, Adrian Otaegui and Justin Harding who initially appealed suspensions from the DP World Tour and were allowed to compete in the Genesis Scottish Open as well as later events after the panel issued a stay.

Now, most LIV Golfers are expected to resign their DP World Tour memberships to avoid paying fines of £100,000 ($124,788) for playing in events without releases. This carries serious implications for European LIV Golf members, who are required to maintain DP World Tour membership to compete on the European Ryder Cup team.

It also denies a popular avenue for LIV Golfers to earn Official World Golf Ranking points as the upstart league is still not recognized by the ranking. Defectors had been playing in several DP World Tour events, such as the BMW PGA Championship and the Dubai Desert Classic, while the case played out.

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Talor Gooch was able to use a fourth-place finish at last September’s BMW PGA Championship to gain enough points to stay in the top 50 by the end of 2022. Had he fallen out before the end of the year, Gooch, who was ranked 35th before joining LIV, would not have earned an invitation to the Masters this week. There are 17 other LIV Golfers in the field this week, including six who earned lifetime invitations as past champions.

“Out of respect for the confidentiality of the process conducted by Sports Resolutions [the panel], we will make no comment on any aspect of the arbitration until the decision is formally announced,” the DP World Tour said in a statement.

LIV Golfers have been suspended from the PGA Tour since the first event in London. Those suspensions survived a challenge in U.S. District Court in August while the broader case plays out over the next year.

At the Masters this week, where relations between LIV Golfers and PGA Tour loyalists have been tame, Rory McIlroy, one of the Saudi-backed circuit’s loudest opponents, was also tame in his response to the reports of the outcome.

“I don’t know if I can comment on it too much. But you know, if that is the outcome, then that certainly changes the dynamic of everything,” McIlroy said Tuesday. “I’m not a lawyer, but if the arbitration panel think that’s the right decision, then I have to go by what they say.”

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