LPGA Tour star Lexi Thompson has responded to the media after hearing PGA Tour pro Peter Malnati refer to her appearance in this week's Shriners Children's Open on the PGA Tour as something of a "gimmick".
To be fair to Malnati, 36, he did immediately retract his comment during his presser last week, however, he still said it.
Thompson, 28, will become only the seventh woman to play on the PGA Tour, and she will be competing for a prize pot of $8.4m when she tees up at TPC Summerlin on Thursday.
The American is the first woman to play on the PGA Tour since Brittany Lincicome played at the Barbasol Championship in 2018.
Thompson has made it clear she intends to "inspire others" by competing with the men on the PGA Tour.
The 11-time LPGA Tour winner joins esteemed company to make the switch to play on the men's circuit, following in the footsteps of Lincicome, Michelle Wie, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley, Shirley Sport and Babe Didrikson Zaharias.
Of the six golfers who have made starts on the PGA Tour, only Zaharias managed to make the cut when she played in the Los Angeles Open in 1945.
Thompson arrives in Las Vegas in solid form following a tie for eighth and a solo fifth in her last two LPGA Tour starts.
The Ladies World No.25 was quizzed by reporters as to how she reacted after hearing Malnati's comments in light of her PGA Tour invite.
Thompson then went on to add:
"I knew some comments were going to happen with anything. I'm out here playing of course with the men, but I want to leave a message just to the kids that I'm following my dreams and to go after what you want with a positive mindset and don't let anybody's comments or reaction get in the way of that. But it's all good. I mean, I expected it, so..."
As for taking up the invite, Thompson admitted she cancelled plans to be here.
"It was basically an automatic yes. I did have plans this weekend, but they moved to next week now. It was such an exciting feeling. I got the news two Sundays ago right after I played at Walmart, so it was kind of surreal. I was letting that round soak in and have a good round under my belt and got that news. I'm like, right, this is all just exciting. Like I said I'm just very honored that they want me here to compete this week, and hopefully send out an inspiring message."
Why did Malnati call Thompson's invite a "gimmick"?!
While Malnati has no problem Thompson competing with the men on the PGA Tour, and even thinks she will be able to put up a good fight given the distance she hits the golf ball, he is unsure whether a tournament sponsor really needed to go to such lengths as inviting an LPGA Tour star to "drum up interest and get storylines."
Malnati said last week at the Sanderson Farms of Thompson's invite:
"I just got a text this morning, so I don't know much about it. I don't even know -- 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. I don't think we're going to need to resort to gimmicks to drum up interest. I shouldn't have said that. 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, if you're the Century Club here in Jackson, if you're Wayne Sanderson Farms, you just don't know right now for sure what you have anymore because the fall is completely reimagined.
"I'm pretty sure that the fall is going to be a blockbuster hit. I think it's going to be very successful. But these tournaments, they don't know yet.
"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. Obviously she's a professional athlete. She's accomplished a lot. It's not like -- I mean, who knows what'll happen. She may go play really well and it'll be huge. She may play absolutely terrible and finish 132nd.
"Either way, she's a professional golfer. She has a spot in the field. The tournament is -- if it gets them the attention that they want and it works out positively for them, it's great, all for it."
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