The LPGA & PGA Tour Combine For New Mixed Event - Grant Thornton Invitational
DURING the Covid-19 lockdown, Justin Rose and his wife, Kate, were champions for women’s golf in the UK.
At what was a time of crisis for the Ladies European Tour, he launched the Rose Series, a number of tournaments that gave established and up-and-coming stars alike an opportunity to play competitively and earn some money and keep mind, body and soul together.
This was a time when several LET golfers were talking quite seriously about giving up the game. Rose saved the day.
And as things returned to normal, the Rose Series has continued and thrived.
The point here is that women’s golf is the poor relation. It is a fact. It doesn’t get the same TV and media coverage as the men’s game and, even on the LPGA Tour in the United States, prize money is only a fraction of that on offer for the men’s game.
However, you will remember that there was a huge amount of publicity when Lexi Thompson was given a sponsor’s invitation to play in the Shriners Children’s Open. She played poorly in the first round but then battled back with a 69 and only narrowly missed the cut.
But she was followed by huge crowds and there was a lot of love shown to her. It proved that there is a genuine interest in men and women competing together on level terms.
And so we should celebrate the fact that Rose and Charley Hull will team up in the Grant Thornton Invitational, a mixed team event being staged by the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour.
It will be the first time the circuits have held a mixed event since 1999.
Played over three rounds from 8-10 December for a shared $4m (£3.5m) purse, the event will feature 16 mixed pairs and be played in Naples, Florida.It features 18 holes of scramble, 18 holes of foursomes and 18 holes of fouball.
And I cannot wait.
England's Melissa Reid and Ireland's Leona Maguire will also play - as will 2023's five women's major champions.
Reid will team up with Russell Henley while his fellow American Lucas Glover will partner Maguire.
There are some hugely exciting partnerships in a 32-strong field that will include 11 major champions.
Like Hull and Rose, Swedish pair Madelene Sagstrom and Ludvig Aberg were each on the successful European teams at the Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup this autumn. Aberg is one of the hottest properties in the men’s game.
And Thompson is back again, partnered with Rickie Fowler. Lexi will surely feel that she has a point to prove. But perhaps the most exciting pairing is that of Rose Zhang and Sahith Theegala. Zhang turned the LPGA Tour on its head earlier this year when she turned professional and won her very first event in the paid ranks.
The last mixed team event held by the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour was the 1999 JC Penney Classic.
December is a time of year when we see a host of novelty events but I genuinely don’t see this tournament as a gimmick. I applaud the sponsors and I believe that there will be a huge amount of interest and that we could see more tournaments like this in the near future.
Bring it on!
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