124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

walk it back

Tour winner calls Lexi Thompson PGA debut a ‘gimmick,’ immediately walks back comments

October 05, 2023

Kate McShane/R&A

For just the seventh time ever, an LPGA pro will tee it up against the men on the PGA Tour. Lexi Thompson is all set to compete at next week’s Shriners Children’s Open in Las Vegas, even going so far as to call it a “once-in-a-career opportunity.” It’s not as if the 28-year-old isn’t already accomplished, with 11 LPGA wins and a major to her name, but not everyone competing is open to the idea.

“I just got a text this morning, so I don’t know much about it,” said Peter Malnati while speaking to the press at this week’s Sanderson Farms Championship. “Obviously, I know that Lexi at times has been one of the top players on the LPGA Tour, and she’s obviously very athletic. Distance won’t be a problem. She’ll hit it far enough.

“My gut reaction when I saw that was like the tournament reaching to try to get—just trying to drum up interest. I think I understand that, if that is the case.”

Malnati, a member of the PGA Tour Policy Board, went on to say that the tour doesn’t need to “resort to gimmicks” and that he was surprised by the move.

Immediately, though, Malnati corrected himself. 

"I shouldn't have said that," Malnati continued. "I don't know that having Lexi play is a gimmick, but I don't think the tournaments are going to have to go to those kind of lengths to drum up interest and get storylines that they can sell because I think these events are actually going to have a lot of meaning.

"Like I said, change is hard for everyone at every level, so I assume if you're a host organization of a tournament ... you just don't know right now for sure what you have anymore because the fall is completely reimagined."

Malnati isn’t sure how Thompson will fare next week, but he does know that she has the talent to make the cut and keep things interesting.

"Having Lexi play certainly will get a lot of headlines, and if that's the goal for Shriners and the host organization in Vegas there, that's great," Malnati said while choosing his words carefully. "Obviously, she's a professional athlete. She's accomplished a lot."

Thompson competing on the PGA Tour will be the first for a woman athlete since Brittany Lincicome accepted a sponsor exemption for the Barbasol Championship back in 2018. We’ll find out soon enough if she gets paired with Peter Malnati.