AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — The European tour has won a key court case in the ongoing dispute with LIV Golf that allows the tour to fine players competing on the Saudi-funded rival league without permission, according to a London newspaper.
The Times of London reported that Sport Resolutions, a three-member arbitration panel that heard testimony in February, has ruled in favor of the European tour.
It said a decision would be announced Thursday, the same day 18 players from LIV Golf are set to compete in the Masters.
The ruling would allow the European tour to impose £100,000 fines on players who compete for LIV Golf without a conflicting events release, according to the Times. It also said the tour can impose the fine on players at the inaugural LIV event last June outside London.
That has been the only LIV Golf event held in Europe. LIV is scheduled to return this year to the Centurion Club outside London, along with another event in Spain.
“Out of respect for the confidentiality of the process conducted by Sports Resolutions, we will make no comment on any aspect of the arbitration until the decision is formally announced,” said a statement from the DP World Tour, the commercial name of the circuit.
A ruling in favor of Europe means Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulters and others are likely to resign their membership.
It was the first court decision since LIV Golf began in June.
Rory McIlroy, one of the strongest voices against LIV Golf, was cautious with his reaction until the decision is formally announced.
“If that is the outcome, that certainly changes the dynamic of everything a bit,” he said. “I’m not a lawyer, but if the arbitration panel thinks that’s the right decision, we have to go by what they say.”
The PGA Tour suspended its members when they played the rival league. Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau were among nine players who filed an antitrust lawsuit in August against the PGA Tour, and now LIV Golf has joined the lawsuit while all but three players removed themselves as plaintiffs. The PGA Tour then filed a countersuit against LIV.
Three players asked for a temporary restraining order against the PGA Tour that would have allowed them to continue to compete in PGA Tour events. A federal judge denied that request in August.
That case is slowly moving through a federal court in California. It now is in the discovery process, and any trial is not scheduled until next January at the earliest.
The European tour fined its players for competing at Centurion Club last June and suspended them from the Scottish Open. Poulter, Adrian Otaegui of Spain and Justin Harding of South Africa appealed, allowing players to compete in European tour events.
Sports Resolution heard the case in February over five days of private hearings.
The ruling could provide clear definition for Europe in the Ryder Cup in terms of who could qualify or even play.