DP Tour v LIV Players: The Court Battle Rages On

Ian Poulter swinging

12 months in golf is a long time…..

Enough to see the game fracture into two sides, in essence becoming a battle between the longstanding PGA Tour v the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest dissenters to the new upstart league has come from golf’s leading voice, and the predominantly American-based PGA Tour, but what about the other major player within the game, the DP World Tour?

This past month, behind the scenes there has been an ongoing arbitration case brought by a handful of LIV players against the DP World Tour as they seek to be allowed to continue to play on the DP World Tour.

Here we look at the case and what it means for all sides and where it might end up.


There is no denying that LIV Golf has upset the apple cart as such but whilst the PGA Tour resisted any talks with the hierarchy at LIV, we do know that the head of the DP World Tour, Keith Pelley and his top team were spoken to behind the scenes when the league announced its intentions.

Ultimately, the DP World Tour decided to put their eggs into the basket with the PGA Tour and alongside their commissioner, Jay Monaghan, formed a strategic Alliance that entwined the historically, two biggest tours within the game. 

This strategic alliance has been widely talked about with golfing pundits split on the benefits it offers to the European based Tour with many questioning why the flagging DP World Tour decided not to work with LIV with the outcome of the alliance, seemingly further draining the talent that play on the tour.

For example, the alliance will see the Top 10 on the points list earn PGA Tour cards and whilst there will always be new talent coming through the system, there is no doubt that the once great DP World Tour will continue to hemorrhage talent across the pond.

Of course the influx of money into the tour coffers will no doubt help in other ways but if the DP Tour want to remain relevant and not a feeder tour as has been suggested by some critics, is this Strategic Alliance a positive?

The news this past week that announced a raft of changes on the PGA Tour with the recently announced Designated Events, having a restricted field has further split both players and pundits and have again seen the question raised as to what the ‘Strategic Alliance’ is doing for the DP World Tour. 

Court Battle

So you may be asking what the court battle is all about. Simply put, with a different judicial system in Europe compared to the US, 13 LIV players seek to be able to continue to play on the DP Tour with probably more awaiting the outcome behind the scenes. Other cases in sport indicate that they stand a good chance of winning the case through precedent alone.

This include the likes of Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, a former Order of Merit winner and 30-year veteran of the Tour and Patrick Reed, one of the few US stars to regularly play tournaments on the tour, who want to continue to have the option to play on the DP World Tour and believe that they should have that opportunity and not face the same restrictions that the PGA Tour have put in place. 

An initial battle went the way of the LIV players last summer when three players, Poulter, Adrian Ortegui and Justin Harding challenged a DP Tour ban that allowed them to play in the Scottish Open. With their court battle won for now, the aforementioned trio and other LIV based players have continued to play on the tour, with a 2023 court date that is awaiting an outcome that could have huge implications for the wider golf landscape. 

A Boost to a Fledging Tour?

Whilst it has continued to forge itself on the European and Asian Market, there is little denying that in today’s golf climate, the once heralded DP Tour has come to play second fiddle to the PGA Tour. The latter has ascended to its position as the leading force in golf with the talent drain of European Golfers moving across the pond, leaving many to wonder the benefits to the strategic alliance that will continue to direct talent away from the tour.

However, what would a win for the players in the court battle do for the DP Tour?

In essence, it could provide the necessary boost to a tour that has continued to see its talent pool dwindle year on year, with the impressive depth of talent on LIV Golf immediately having an additional place to ply their trade. Whilst it was said, many of those that signed up to LIV, signed up to play less golf that they did whilst on the PGA Tour, there is little doubt that many if not all will choose to add a number of events onto their schedule.

Why wouldn’t European and Asian golf fans want to see the likes of Dustin Johnson, Cam Smith and Joaquin Niemann rock up at the Italian Open in May? Who Wouldn’t want to see Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson in contention at the BMW PGA Championship in September. I think we all would!

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We’ve seen glimpses of what tournaments could be like in the future on the DP Tour should tournaments be open to all LIV golfers, one of the most fascinating events seen recently was January’s Dubai Dessert Classic, a tournament won by staunch PGA Tour stalwart Rory Mcilroy, holding off bitter rival and LIV based golfer Patrick Reed, against a backdrop of controversy and pure entertainment that had the DP Tour as centre focus across pundits and fans alike. 

What about the Strategic Alliance should the players win their court battle?

Purely speculation of course but it would likely leave the strategic alliance in tatters and force all sides to evaluate their future course with possible seeds of a truce lingering in the background.

A court win for the players immediately boosts the DP World Tour and opens up their tour to 48 golfers, some from the elite group of players across the last decade, to play on their tour. That would give them huge potential to attract new sponsors and reinvigorate a tour that has become secondary to a PGA Tour, that whilst has its critics for its focus on events in the USA, has grown to become the main tour in the game. 

For the PGA Tour, whilst it will still see itself as the leading tour within the game, it will no doubt have them looking over their shoulders, particularly on the back of the mixed reaction from players to the new look tour, with a move to LIV certainly more attractive for those players who have a down year and find themselves out of the elevated events. 

Where would LIV Golf find itself if this happens? In essence, it would be nothing but positive for Saudi-backed tour, who would have a huge case to earn status on the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) particularly after the changes announced on the PGA Tour, seemed to mimic much of what they do.

It could also see elite players look to move across to their League, knowing that it has had interest from certain players on the PGA Tour that have been reluctant to move because of the implications it would have on their ranking status. If that danger is removed for a player, this court case could arguably be seen as the most important in the game since the PGA Tour split of 1968. 

Could we be about to see a return to the days of the Mid-90s when we saw two strong tours battle for supremacy, with the DP Tour backed by players from LIV Golf, take on its friends at the PGA Tour?