Arbitration hearing over LIV golf set to take place this week
A major battle in the Gulf Civil War will take place this week in London with the lengthy arbitration hearing that will effectively determine whether LIV players can continue to moonlight on the DP World Tour.
Beginning Monday and running through Friday, Sports Resolutions will attempt to unravel the tangled legalities that have been thrown up since LIV disrupted the traditional ecosystem with their launch at Centurion Club in Hemel Hempstead last June.
While no verdict is expected several weeks after the conclusion, the optimistic hope is that the hearing before a three-person panel will provide some semblance of clarity about what happens next in the bitter fighting that has ensued since Greg’s Saudi-backed escape. Norman the status quo.
The Tour’s argument, legalized by CEO Keith Pelley and his communications director Scott Crockett, revolves around interpretations of their “conflicting event release rule,” which requires a player to be allowed to play on a rival tour at a specific time .
When a number of players from the European circuit, including Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, quit Centurion eight months ago without release, they were suspended for three events and fined £100,000.
Lee Westwood is one of those whose future will be decided on the DP World Tour
Those sanctions were suspended by Sports Resolutions in July pending the outcome of this hearing, and in the meantime LIV players are allowed to continue on the DP World Tour, sparking tensions over ‘teegate’ between Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed in Dubai last week.
The goal of the upcoming hearing, pitting lawyers for 13 LIV golfers against those on the Tour, will determine whether those days of uneasy coexistence will be a thing of the past.
Both sides are expected to be optimistic about their chances, although there is a growing sense that the LIV Rebels have a particularly strong case as independent contractors, citing the long-established trend of elite golfers competing on multiple tours.
Mischievously, but with an ounce of plausibility, there is also a school of thought within the sport that a defeat before the Tour would ultimately be beneficial to them in light of the little brother relationship they have with their strategic partners on the PGA Tour.
As Phil Mickelson put it recently: ‘I expect the players, the LIV players will win their case in the UK and we will open the doors for all players to play on the European Tour.
“There’s a very good chance you’ll have more showdowns, more head-to-head matches like you saw in Dubai last week and that would be really good for the game.”
One of the loose ends to be resolved by the hearing is the situation for LIV golfers with aspirations to play in the Ryder Cup later this year.
Automatic qualification will be almost impossible if not played in the Tour to collect points, although Pelley confirmed Tour honorary members such as Sergio Garcia would still be eligible for a captain’s pick by Luke Donald.
Ian Poulter has also been involved in LIV golf, with a hearing set to take place this week
Rory McIlroy is one of those who have taken a strong stand against those involved in LIV
Of course, the likelihood of that scenario feels almost non-existent when Rory McIlroy has taken such a strong stand against their involvement.
The player among the defectors with the most realistic chance of qualifying is Spaniard Adrian Otaegui, who tamed the brutal Valderrama course last year by winning his fourth Tour event.
He played at LIV’s events during their first season, but has since turned down overtures to stay with the breakaway in hopes of gaining clearance to play the cup tie in Rome this fall.
Otaegui said, “For me, being in the Ryder Cup would be huge. It has been my dream forever. And it’s my number one goal this year. That’s all I have in mind. So hopefully I can. It’s something very big for me.
“It would be difficult (if he is unable to) because I don’t see why I couldn’t be on the team, or the (LIV) players couldn’t be on the team. So that’s clearly my position.
“Ryder Cup for me is Europe against America. It’s not about LIV, about European Tour, about PGA Tour. For me it’s the best players from Europe against the best players from the US and it’s always been that way.
There have been players in the European team over the years who have played their careers in America and have qualified for the European team.’
He added: “We’ll see what happens with the hearings. We won’t know what will happen until the coming weeks.’
Adrian Otaegui hopes he will be allowed to compete in the Ryder Cup