Calling the PGA’s Bluff


You don’t have to be a golf fan to be intrigued by the daily headlines in the battle between the PGA and the startup Saudi-backed LIV golf league. The PGA threats read like something out of a mafia movie. Defecting players will never be welcomed back to the PGA tour. They will be stripped of Ryder Cup invitations and they will be persona non grata at the Golf Hall of Fame. All that’s missing is the Godfather of golf swearing on the graves of his grandchildren.

Masters Champion and crowd favorite Bubba Watson just became the latest star to call the PGA bluff. When big money talks, some of the biggest names in golf will walk.

All of this rough talk is coming from an enterprise (that operates as a non-profit) in an effort to intimidate what we all thought were independent contractors.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the DOJ is considering antitrust action against the PGA. Players may file a legal suit. Imagine any other company or organization who hires independent contractors (thus avoiding tax and legal implications) and then threatens those same independent contractors that if they ever work for any other organization those contractors will never again be allowed to work for them. Even Pete Rozelle and the powerful NFL were careful to avoid that legal landmine years ago when the fledgling AFL kicked off.

Perhaps the lawyers for the PGA honestly believe they can get away with this. Do they think that the stock of Saudi Arabia is so low that they win in a purely PR battle?  PR is helpful, but this promises to a big legal fight which will decided by facts and the law. Neither of which appear to be on Mr. Monahan’s side. Maybe he thinks he has enough goodwill with Members of Congress that they can be persuaded to intervene with some kind of legislative protection for this fiefdom.

Good luck with that.

Clearly Mr. Monahan is bluffing. He and his legal beagles must know that if push turns to shove, he ultimately loses. Several players have questioned the way the PGA money pie has been sliced in recent years.

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