What role did Augusta National and President Fred Ridley play in the current hubbub between the PGA Tour and the LIV Golf Invitational Series? More than you might think if a 105-page lawsuit filed by Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and nine other players seeking a temporary restraining order so LIV defectors can compete in the upcoming FedEx Cup playoffs is to be believed.
“Augusta National, the promoter of the Masters, has taken several steps to indicate its alignment with the PGA Tour, thereby casting doubt among top professional golfers whether they will be banned from future Masters tournaments,” according to a lawsuit filed by 11 LIV. golfers on Wednesday against the Tour. “For starters, the ties between the PGA Tour and Augusta National run deep. Augusta National’s actions indicate that the PGA Tour has used these channels to pressure Augusta National to do what it wants. For example , in February 2022, representatives of Augusta National threatened to uninvite Masters players if they joined LIV Golf.
He notes, among other things, that the Tour asked Augusta National officials to attend “an emergency meeting” of the Player Advisory Council meeting in May, before LIV Golf’s first tournament once the course announced, “to discuss the ramifications for players participating in LIV Golf. Although officials did not attend the meeting, they told players present at the meeting that the Tour and Augusta National had agreed to work together to address LIV Golf, according to the plaintiffs.
“The threat of exclusion from the Masters is a powerful weapon in the Tour’s arsenal to deter players from joining LIV Golf,” the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit also claims Augusta National President Fred Ridley worked behind the scenes against LIV Golf.
“Additionally, Augusta National President Fred Ridley has personally asked a number of 2022 Masters attendees not to play in the LIV Golf Invitational Series. Obviously, these threats against top players have been for naught, as they would only serve to weaken the Masters squad,” the claim reads.
The lawsuit also says Ridley declined a meeting request from LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman.
Ridley also reportedly called Asian Tour CEO Cho Minn Thant along with R&A Managing Director Martin Slumbers “to threaten consequences related to the Asian Tour’s position in the current ‘ecosystem’ if the Asian Tour continues to support LIV Golf and its LIV Golf Invitational series”.
In his only public comments related to LIV Golf, Ridley said during the Masters in April: “Our mission is to always act in the best interests of the game, whatever form that may take. I think golf is doing well right now. There is more participation, the purses on professional tours are the highest they have ever been. We’ve been pretty clear in our belief that the world tours have done a great job of promoting the game over the years. Beyond that, there’s so much we don’t know about what could happen or what might happen, I can’t say much more beyond that.
There are six former Masters champions who have bolted for LIV Golf – three-time champion Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Charl Schwartzel and Bubba Watson, a two-time green jacket winner who announced his intentions this week last that he would have him join LIV as soon as he was healthy and begin his involvement as a non-playing captain with the start of the next Labor Day week event near Boston.
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The story originally appeared on GolfWeek