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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Phil Casey

Latest skirmish in golf’s civil war: London hearing begins for LIV Golf players versus DP World Tour

Henrik Stenson was removed as Ryder Cup captain in July after jumping ship to LIV Golf. Photo: PA

Eight days after Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed battled it out for the Dubai Desert Classic, the latest skirmish in golf’s civil war will be waged off the course and in the heart of London.

Starting on Monday, a three-strong arbitration panel will hear five days of arguments from lawyers for a group of 13 LIV Golf players and those representing the DP World Tour in an attempt to clarify the playing status of the former on the latter.

The case arose when players requested “conflicting event” releases from the DP World Tour in order to play the inaugural LIV Golf event in Hemel Hempstead last June.

Those requests were denied, but the players competed at Centurion Club regardless and were fined £100,000 and suspended from the Scottish Open.

Initially, Ian Poulter, Adrian Otaegui and Justin Harding appealed against the decision and the punishments were stayed pending a substantive appeal, allowing the players to compete in DP World Tour events throughout, with Otaegui winning the Andalucia Masters in October.

The number of appellants then grew to 16, but Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace have since withdrawn from the case, which will be heard behind closed doors by Sports Resolutions UK.

While the PGA Tour is involved in a separate anti-trust lawsuit with LIV Golf and a handful of its players who were suspended for playing on the Saudi-funded circuit, DP World Tour officials have stressed the “narrow parameters” of the arbitration case.

In a briefing with reporters at the Dubai Desert Classic, Tour director of communications Scott Crockett said: “The hearing centres solely on our conflicting event release regulation and our ability to enforce it.

“Every member signs up to our regulations when they pay their membership fees each year. There are precedents where they have not been granted in the past.”

The LIV players will doubtless point out that releases have previously been granted to play on the PGA Tour, with whom the DP World Tour have a strategic alliance.

Henrik Stenson, who is not among the 13 appellants but lost the Ryder Cup captaincy after joining LIV, said: “There are multiple tours in the world. As long as you fulfil your (membership) criteria and earn your right to be there, you should be able to play in as many tournaments as you like.”

The verdict will not be known until several weeks after the hearing, but will be eagerly anticipated by both sides.

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