LIV Golf has joined an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour ©Getty Images

LIV Golf has joined the Phil Mickelson-led antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour while two more players have withdrawn.

Golf Channel reports an updated legal document shows that Abraham Ancer and Jason Kokrak have discontinued their participation in the lawsuit.

The amended complaint, filed on Friday (August 26) in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, also asserts that LIV Golf is seeking "punitive damages against the PGA Tour for its tortious interference with LIV Golf's prospective business relationships".

LIV Golf's addition to the lawsuit represents a further worsening of relations between the Saudi-backed promotion and the US-based PGA Tour, which has suspended all players who have played in LIV events.

Beth Labson Freeman, the judge in the case, has already set an opening trial date of January 8 2024.

A summary judgement hearing has been scheduled for July 23 next year

The original lawsuit consisted of 11 players, but the figure has since dropped to seven.

Mexico's Ancer and American Kokrak join Mexican Carlos Ortiz and American Pat Perez in being removed.

Americans Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford and Peter Uihelin, Australia's Matt Jones and England's Ian Poulter are the remaining seven players.

Abraham Ancer is no longer a party to the antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour ©Getty Image
Abraham Ancer is no longer a party to the antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour ©Getty Image

Jones, Gooch and Swafford were denied their request for a temporary restraining in order to play in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup Playoffs.

Big-spending LIV Golf is being bankrolled by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, with critics suggesting the nation is using it as a sportswashing vehicle to improve its image and to gain soft power.

Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia, women's rights are severely restricted, as is free speech, and the country is leading a coalition which has carried out deadly airstrikes across Yemen since 2015.

These issues - plus Saudi Arabia's links to the 9/11 terror attacks and the state-ordered assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi - have been at the forefront of criticism over certain golfers' willingness to sign up to the series.

The PGA Tour has sought to stop LIV Golf poaching players in recent days by increasing prize money at its marquee tournaments, adding four elevated events each with purses of at least $20 million (£17 million/€20 million), doubling the Player Impact Program (PIP) fund, which is used to reward players who drive media and fan engagement, and introducing guaranteed minimum earnings.

The Players Championship, frequently marketed as men's golf's fifth major, will now boast a $25 million (£21 million/€25 million) prize pool and the PIP bonus pool has risen to $100 million (£85 million/€100 million).

The measures resemble many of LIV's selling points and several LIV players have accused the PGA Tour of copying its rival.

"A day late and a dollar short" was the verdict of LIV chief executive Greg Norman.