Golfer Phil Mickelson removed his name Tuesday morning from a high-profile antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour over its behavior toward its controversial and Saudi-funded new rival LIV Golf, a seeming blow to LIV’s case given Mickelson’s early prominence in the case, though the upstart circuit asserts “nothing has changed” about the suit.
Mickelson voluntarily dismissed his case against the tour in a Tuesday filing in the U.S. District Court of Northern California, having first filed the suit August 3 along with 10 other players suspended by the PGA Tour after joining LIV.
Fellow LIV defectors Talor Gooch, Ian Poulter and Hudson Swafford also removed their names from the suit Tuesday.
The exodus leaves only three golfers, including Bryson DeChambeau, as defendants in the suit, after LIV joined the case August 27.
Mickelson said he “no longer feel[s] it is necessary for me to be part of the proceedings” in a statement, saying LIV’s decision to join the litigation means “the players’ rights will be protected,” while the other three players echoed Mickelson in similar statements released simultaneously by LIV.
The trial for the antitrust case will begin in January 2024, while a summary judgment hearing, which determines if there’s enough evidence in one direction to prevent a trial from being necessary, will take place in July 2023.
Financed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and closely aligned with former U.S. President Donald Trump, LIV burst onto the scene this year, largely thanks to Mickelson’s early, emphatic backing of the circuit (and controversial defense of the Saudi government’s human rights record). The PGA Tour barred all of its current and future players from playing in LIV events in June, and confirmed in July the Department of Justice launched a probe into any potential antitrust violations. Mickelson was the first named plaintiff in the antitrust suit, which alleged the PGA Tour acted in a “nakedly anticompetitive manner” and damaged LIV golfers’ future earning potential.
The 52-year-old Mickelson was the highest-paid golfer in the world last year, according to Forbes’ calculations, raking in $138 million in earnings on and off the course, thanks mostly to reportedly signing a $200 million contract with LIV in June.
“Nothing” about the case changed and “the merits of the case – the PGA Tour’s anti-competitive conduct – still stand and will be fully tested in court,” Jonathan Grella, LIV’s chief communications officer, wrote in a statement to Forbes. The PGA Tour declined to comment.