LPGA major champs test game against Champions, celebs


The mixed format may naturally be less intense, with LPGA pros in the field with Champions Tour pros and celebrities, but you can’t put a trophy in front of a world-class athlete without sparking a competitive flame.

Can a woman win the Diamond Resorts Invitational this weekend?

“I don’t see why not,” reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion Brittany Lang said. “I know we’re going to have to play some great golf, but I wouldn’t see why not, 6,600 yards is not very long.”

Lang will join fellow LPGA pros – and major champions – Lexi Thompson, Brittany Lincicome and Brooke Henderson in the mixed format beginning Friday. They will compete with 27 Champions Tour pros and 48 sports and entertainment celebrities in the 54-hole event at Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Resort in Orlando, Fla.

They’ll all be playing a modified stableford format with the Champions Tour and LPGA pros competing for a $750,000 purse and the celebrities a $500,000 purse. They will all be competing from the same set of tees with a scorecard yardage of 6,626 yards.

There’s special curiosity how the LPGA pros will fare competing in an unofficial Champions Tour event with big name players like John Daly, Colin Montgomerie and Mark Calcavecchia. The celebrity field includes actor Jack Wagner, NFL Hall of Famer Marcus Allen, 10-time NFL pro bowler Larry Fitzgerald and Major League Baseball seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens.

“We all want to win,” Thompson said. “The stableford format, it’s a bit different, but I think we’re all looking forward to it.”

The women want to be more than a novel attraction.

“It's for charity,” Henderson said of the benefit for the Florida Children’s Hospital. “It's a little bit different atmosphere, with celebrities and the Champions Tour pros, that I don't see every day. So, I'm definitely going to have fun with it, but at the end of the day, every competition – and the guys will agree to that – you're always trying to be No. 1 and be the best that you can be. Hopefully, that means the top of the leaderboard.”

Lincicome, Thompson, Henderson and Lang are all major championship winners. The 6,626-yard setup they will be playing this week is actually shorter than what they played the U.S. Women’s Open (6,784 yards) and the ANA Inspiration (6,763 yards) last season.

The women have been getting a lot of attention of late for news putting them alongside the men. Last week, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said his tour is looking at sharing the Tournament of Champions stage in Hawaii with the LPGA in future events, with the women staging their own event together with the men. Last month, Thompson teamed with Bryson DeChambeau to play the Franklin Templeton Shootout in Naples, Fla.

“I guess the Shootout was a little bit of practice for me, to play against the guys,” Thompson said. “But it was a little bit different there, being a team event and being paired with Bryson. This is a totally different format.”

And that’s part of the appeal this week.