FedEx Cup playoffs are here and LIV Golf a lingering topic

  • Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland watches his shot during the final round of the British Open golf championship on July 17 in St. Andrews, Scotland. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Perhaps it was only fitting that a violent thunderstorm hit the TPC Southwind right about the time a federal judge in California ruled against a motion that would have allowed three players who cashed in on LIV Golf to play for $75 million in bonus money on the PGA Tour.

On the eve of the FedEx Cup playoffs, the ruling still resounded.

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“Common sense prevailed, and I thought it was the right decision,” said Rory McIlroy, a player-director on the PGA Tour board and the strongest voice against the rival league. “And now that it’s happened, I think it just lets us focus on the important stuff, which is the golf, and we can all move forward and not have that sideshow going on for the next few weeks, which is nice.”

The important stuff? More money. The tour’s postseason starts Thursday with the FedEx St. Jude Championship, the first of two tournaments offering a $15 million purse. The top 30 after two weeks advance to East Lake in Atlanta for a shot at winning the FedEx Cup and its $18 million prize.

Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Matt Jones wanted a piece of the pie and sought a temporary restraining order in a case that featured both sides accusing the other in court documents of wanting to have their cake and eat it, too.

U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman, who had access to LIV contracts and how much the players were paid to join, ultimately ruled they could not show irreparable harm because they have made more to sign with LIV Golf than they could reasonably make in the playoffs.

“Those guys were given an opportunity to go play, and just go play,” PGA champion Justin Thomas said. “You can have your cake, but you don’t need to eat it, too. And they got their share of a large, large amount of cake. Go eat it on your own means. You don’t need to bring it onto our tour.”

Swafford and Gooch brought it as far as Memphis. They were seen outside the course Tuesday evening, presumably waiting for a favorable ruling from the California court that would allow them to be part of the field for the first playoff event.

And then they were headed home, no longer welcome at the moment at tournaments run by the PGA Tour. Still to be determined are the majors, which are operated by separate organizations, and who have not determined eligibility criteria for 2023.

The Masters, U.S. Open and British Open have exempted players who reach the Tour Championship since as early as 2008.

The top 125 qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs. Even without the three LIV Golf players who unsuccessfully sought to play, the field is only 120 players for the TPC Southwind. Former Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama cited a sore neck and withdrew Wednesday morning, making him the fifth player to withdraw.

Only the top 70 after the first event will advance to the BMW Championship next week in Delaware, and the priority for half the field is to make sure they stay in the game.

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