Peter Malnati hasn’t been shy when it comes to sharing his opinions since joining the PGA Tour policy board, but he found himself choosing his words very carefully when speaking about Lexi Thompson on Tuesday.
Thompson, who owns 11 career LPGA victories, was given an exemption for next week’s Shriners Children’s Open in Las Vegas, which is a PGA Tour event. Malnati was surprised by the move, saying the tour doesn’t need to “resort to gimmicks,” but he quickly had a change of heart.
“I shouldn’t have said that,” Malnati said. “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.”
At the very least, Malnati said he believes Thompson’s entry into the 132-person field will catch people’s eye.
“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. “Obviously, she’s a professional athlete. She’s accomplished a lot.”
Malnati, 36, stuck to his steadfast opinion back in June, when he made comments regarding a lack of trust that players have in the tour following its framework agreement with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. He noted that it would take time for the relationship between the two sides to be fixed.
He will be playing in this week’s Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Mississippi. Malnati last appeared in the Fortinet Championship, finishing tied for 11th on Sept. 17.