PGA Tour officials talked to more than 100 entities and people around golf in regards to alternative leagues such as LIV Golf, including sponsors, broadcasters and former Tour winner Anthony Kim, court documents show in the ongoing lawsuit between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf.
On Monday, a discovery hearing before Magistrate Judge Susan van Keulen for the U.S. District Court, California Northern District, will go a long way in determining how much latitude in discovery Judge van Keulen will give to LIV and the PGA Tour.
The current issue is based on Interrogatory No. 1, the first question LIV Golf provided to the PGA Tour to answer in discovery.
Interrogatories are written questions and answers, generally broad in scope, to help the author hone in on a strategy further down the line in depositions, which are either in person or videotaped. Both interrogatories and depositions are under oath.
On Oct. 7, both LIV Golf and the PGA Tour argued in documents submitted to the court as to why LIV Golf was entitled to a full answer to the question posed in Interrogatory No. 1, no matter the time or effort involved in compiling the response by the Tour.
The PGA Tour argued that the request exceeded the bounds of discovery and that it was an undue burden on the Tour to answer the question in full.
Interrogatory No. 1 reads as follows:
Identify each individual who communicated on behalf of the PGA Tour with any other person (including Tour Members) or entity regarding any New Tour. Your response should include individuals who communicated with (a) the European Tour, (b) Augusta National, (c) PGA of America, (d) USGA, (e) OWGR, (f) Royal & Ancient, (g) Asian Tour, (h) Japan Tour, (i) Sunshine Tour, (j) Ladies Professional Golf Association, (k) Ladies European Tour, (l) any broadcaster, (m) any vendor or service provider to the PGA Tour, (n) any advertiser or sponsor, (o) any player agent or representative, (p) any golfer (including PGA Tour Members), or (q) any other person or entity not expressly excluded by this Interrogatory. Your response need not include communications with the PGA Tour’s counsel or the press. For each individual you identify, identify the date(s) of the communication(s), the medium of the communication(s) (e.g., in-person, phone, text, email, etc.), and the other person or entity to whom the communication was made.
The time and effort involved to answer this question is long and laborious, so the PGA Tour, according to court documents, has tried to limit the scope in defining each individual who communicated on behalf of the Tour as “authorized.”
If the Tour believes an individual was authorized, then they would be able to supply the appropriate answer to the question, which they did on Oct. 20 after being ordered by the court to fully comply with Interrogatory No. 1.
A discovery hearing was set on Oct. 14 with most of the time spent on Interrogatory No. 1, soon after which the court filed an order which stated the following:
By 12 p.m. (PDT) on October 19, 2022, Defendant Tour is to identify in a verified interrogatory response all individuals who were authorized to speak on behalf of the Tour during the relevant time period (September 1, 2019-present; “Time Period”) regarding competitive or potentially competitive tours. The interrogatory response will indicate which individuals had verbal, in addition to written, communications regarding competitive or potentially competitive tours during the Time Period.
On Oct. 19, Judge van Keulen again ruled in LIV’s favor on a specific issue regarding sponsors, vendors and broadcasters, ordering the Tour to comply with the obligations outlined by the order from Oct. 14.
The Tour complied with the additional orders on Oct. 20.
The response included 31 individuals listed as Tour employees that were authorized to speak on the Tour’s behalf since Sept. 1, 2019, in regards to LIV Golf or its predecessor, the Premier Golf League (PGL).
In an additional exhibit, the Tour listed 179 different entities involved in golf with whom they discussed LIV or the PGL.
These included networks Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Fox, Warner, HBO and many international broadcasters.
The Tour also talked to 22 sponsors, 27 vendors, 28 agents and 71 players—including Anthony Kim and Ryo Ishikawa—among the 179 different entities. Kim, 37, won three times on the PGA Tour but hasn’t played in a decade due to injury; Ishikawa, 31, last played the Tour full-time in 2014-15. (Note: Full player list at bottom.)
LIV believes the list of 179 entities is far too small and stated so in an email to the Tour on Oct. 19.
According to court filings, the email stated:
- The Tour’s response had identified only one employee in its Player Relations Group as having relevant communications, but LIV had reliable information that at least four other Tour employees in that group had had relevant communications.
- The Tour’s response failed to identify any third parties who had relevant communications on its behalf, although LIV has reliable information that Tour has asked a number of third parties to communicate on its behalf—and that they did so.
- The Tour’s response did not identify any of its directors as having relevant communications, but the Tour has produced an email to the PGA Tour commissioner attaching a memorandum of talking points for the directors to communicate to players and others about “Saudi golf” (even though the document is not confidential, the Tour designated it “highly confidential;” LIV would respectfully request to show it to the Court in camera at the hearing).
- LIV has reliable information that the chairman of the Tour’s board (not listed) had relevant communications with the major championship governing bodies and players.
On Oct. 20, LIV and the Tour met and conferred as they have been ordered to do by the court to keep the process of discovery on track.
LIV stated in that meeting that they learned why the Tour may not have been forthcoming with all the information required in Interrogatory No. 1.
Again, from court documents, LIV outlined their concern in the court filing on Oct. 21.
At the meet-and-confer the next day, LIV learned one reason why the Tour’s response was so deficient, that the Tour interprets its definition to mean its own directors do not have authority to speak on its behalf.
According to the Tour, its verified response is complete because:
- If a PGA Tour employee asked golfer Jason Day to communicate to Lexus that it should not work with LIV or players who signed with LIV, and Mr. Day did so (which LIV has reliable evidence happened), Mr. Day would not be identified because he is not “authorized” to speak on behalf of the Tour;
- If the Chairman of the Tour Policy Board, Ed Herlihy, communicated to Majors and players that LIV is a threat and must be attacked, Mr. Herlihy would not be identified because he is not “authorized” to speak on behalf of the Tour;
- If the Commissioner Monahan asked Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy to publicly comment that golfers who join LIV will not be able to play in future Majors to dissuade young golfers from joining LIV, and they did so, Mr. Woods and Mr. McIlroy would not be identified because they are not “authorized” to speak on behalf of the Tour; and
- If the Board of Directors of the Tour received a memorandum from Commissioner Monahan with talking points they should make throughout the global golf “ecosystem” about “Saudi golf” and they made those communications, the Directors would not be identified because they are not “authorized” to speak on behalf of the Tour.
The Tour’s response to LIV’s argument is that it has done precisely what the court directed.
The Tour also suggests that LIV continues to ask for additional information that is not only beyond the scope of the court’s discovery rulings but also beyond what is generally required for an interrogatory response.
The Tour also explains why PGA Tour players and the Policy Board’s independent directors are not authorized to speak for the Tour.
In the Tour’s argument against LIV’s position, court documents outlined the Tour’s stance regarding its members:
- Tour Members are not employees of the Tour. They are—as LIV repeatedly alleges in the Amended Complaint … independent contractors, and thus not authorized to speak on behalf of the Tour, either generally or regarding the Subject Matter. To the extent Members (or any other PGA TOUR members) speak about the Subject Matter, they do so in their personal capacity, not on behalf of the Tour.
Regarding independent directors, the Tour made the following argument according to court documents:
- The Tour’s independent director’s communications do not constitute statements on behalf of the Tour … The Tour does not dispute that independent directors have spoken to third parties about the Subject Matter, but as with Tour members, they do so of their own volition.
There’s a lot to unpack between the LIV and PGA Tour positions on Interrogatory No. 1, but more clarity may be available after a ruling from Judge van Keulen in the hearing in her San Jose courtroom Monday at 1:30 p.m. PT.
Select Entities for Supplemental Interrogatory Response No. 1
Governing bodies: Augusta National, PGA of America, USGA, OWGR, Royal & Ancient
Golf Tours: European Tour, Asian Tour, Japan Tour, Sunshine Tour, LPGA, LET
Broadcasters: NBC, Golf Channel, CBS, ESPN, Discovery, Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Fox, Warner, HBO, Juniper Broadcasting, SPOTV, Astro Malaysia, True Vision Thailand, Mola Indonesia, Star India, Thai Golf Channel, Sky Sports, Sky Deutschland
Sponsors: RBC, Rocket Mortgage, Bridgestone, Mastercard, Callaway, Titleist, UPS, TaylorMade, Adidas, NetJets, Lexus, Rolex, FootJoy, Puma, Cobra, Dick’s Sporting Goods, MGM, PXG, Mizuno, Nike, American Express, Coca-Cola
Players: Adam Scott, Andy Ogletree, Anthony Kim, Bernd Wiesberger, Billy Horschel, Branden Grace, Brooks Koepka, Bubba Watson, Cameron Champ, Cameron Smith, Cameron Tringale, Cameron Young, Charley Hoffman, Chase Koepka, Christian Bezuidenhout, Collin Morikawa, Corey Conners, Daniel Berger, Danny Willett, Davis Love III, Dustin Johnson, Erik Van Rooyen, Gary Player, Gary Woodland, Harold Varner III, Harris English, Henrik Stenson, Hideki Matsuyama, Jack Nicklaus, James Hahn, Jason Day, Joaquin Niemann, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Justin Thomas, Keegan Bradley, Kevin Kisner, Kevin Na, Lee Westwood, Louis Oosthuizen, Marc Leishman, Matt Fitzpatrick, Matthew Wolff, Max Homa, Mito Pereira, Patrick Cantlay, Patrick Reed, Paul Casey, Oliver Bekker, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Ryo Ishikawa, Sahith Theegala, Sam Burns, Scottie Scheffler, Sebastian Munoz, Sergio Garcia, Shane Lowry, Si Woo Kim, Sungjae Im, Thomas Pieters, Tiger Woods, Tom Hoge, Tom Kim, Tommy Fleetwood, Tony Finau, Tyrrell Hatton, Viktor Hovland, Will Zalatoris, Xander Schauffele