Judge denies LIV Golf request to expand discovery to Augusta members

A federal judge has denied a request by LIV Golf to expand the scope of discovery in its antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour to include communication with 10 Augusta National members, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

LIV Golf has issued subpoenas to five members of the PGA Tour board of directors and Tim Finchem, a retired PGA Tour commissioner. She wanted all communications between her and “any member of Augusta National” regarding a new tour, to name but not limited to LIV Golf, the Saudi-funded rival league that kicked off last year.

In a redacted filing last week, LIV Golf alleged that Rice and Arkansas banking executive Warren Stephens “apparently tried to influence” the DOJ not to investigate the PGA Tour.

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LIV Golf also alleged that Stephens had “apparently been asked by tour staff” to push Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, to lobby against LIV.

In her ruling on Monday, US Judge Susan Van Keulen said LIV Golf’s request for 10 additional members from the Augusta National and Masters Committee “is excessively burdensome to the parties called upon and is not commensurate with the needs of litigation.”

Communication with the 10 additional members would have gone beyond what she described as the “agreed goals”. These were four employees of Augusta National, including President Fred Ridley and seven members. Among the members is Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast, which owns The Golf Channel.

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Attorneys for LIV Golf argued in last week’s filing that part of the PGA Tour’s attempt to quell competition from the new tour was to threaten players, other tours, broadcasters, vendors and any third party if they did business with LIV Golf.

“Discovery showed that the tour made these threats not only through its executives and employees, but by sending other influential people on its behalf,” LIV Golf’s attorneys wrote in the filing.

The judge said any contact based on documents cited by LIV Golf is “highly speculative”.

“The said documents do not in any way refer to the parties to which they have been summoned,” she wrote in her order. “Nor do they reflect communications by or among additional selected targets. In fact, for the most part, selected targets only appear as names on menus or in other italics made by others.”

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Tour attorneys had previously argued that LIV Golf’s accusations of the tour tilting Augusta National to prevent LIV Golf players from competing at the Masters were unfounded because the Masters announced in December that everyone who qualified would be able to play.

Among the 16 LIV Golf players eligible for the Masters is Bryson Dechambeau, who remains one of three players still listed as a plaintiff in the antitrust suit.


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