The First Look: Inside the storylines for inaugural Grant Thornton Invitational
3 Min Read
A photogenic closing hole with water on the left and a deep-faced fairway bunker on the right. A drive down the center of the fairway leaves a second shot slightly over water to a green surrounded by bunkers.
Written by Adam Stanley @adam_stanley
The Grant Thornton Invitational marks the first mixed-team co-sanctioned event between the LPGA and PGA TOUR since John Daly and Laura Davies won the final JCPenney Classic in 1999.
There’s never been a more exciting time in professional golf to see some of the game’s best – men and women – tee it up together on a familiar venue.
“From an LPGA player perspective, it’s exciting to play alongside the guys on TOUR and I think the Grant Thornton Invitational will be a great platform to join forces to help grow the game for the next generation,” said eight-time LPGA winner Nelly Korda, a former world No. 1.
“Having the PGA TOUR stars play alongside the best players from the LPGA is going to be incredible for our fans. Our fans deserve it,” added Tony Finau, who is playing alongside Korda.
Tiburón Golf Club, which hosts the LPGA season-ending CME Group Tour Championship, also hosted a previous iteration of this event, the QBE Shootout.
With a unique format on tap and 16 teams featuring global TOUR stars like Ludvig Åberg, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day, plus some of the LPGA’s best like 2023 Player of the Year Lilia Vu, four-time 2023 winner Celine Boutier and rookie sensation Rose Zhang, it’s set to be a special week.
“As we look to capitalize on the growing interest in the game of golf, the addition of a mixed event to the calendar has been a priority and we greatly appreciate title sponsor Grant Thornton for their support in delivering an event that will make our sport more appealing and welcoming to all,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan.
“I think the Grant Thornton Invitational is going to be amazing,” added LPGA Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan. “More opportunity to get exposure for our athletes, and people have been asking for this for a long time, and we’re really excited for the partnership with the PGA TOUR and Grant Thornton.”
The special three-round event in Naples, Florida, is part of the TOUR’s Challenge Season and begins on Dec. 8.
|Åberg will tee it up for the first time since his breakthough TOUR win at The RSM Classic. Åberg’s caddie Jack Clarke is engaged to Sagström, who had three top-10 finishes on the LPGA this season and played in the Solheim Cup as a captain’s pick.
|Corpuz, a second-year LPGA member, notched five top 10s this season including a major triumph at the U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach. Champ had three top 10s this season.
|The all-Canadian squad features Henderson, who won the LPGA’s 2023 season opener – the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions – and Conners, the country’s top-ranked male golfer. Conners won the Valero Texas Open earlier in 2023. Henderson is the winningest Canadian golfer – on the LPGA
|Vu comes into the week after earning 2023 LPGA Player of the Year honors. She won four times this season including two majors. Dahmen, meanwhile, had five top 10s and finished 84th in the FedExCup.
|This year, Day returned to the PGA TOUR winner’s circle for the first time since 2018 at the AT&T Byron Nelson and finished 28th in the FedExCup. Ko entered 2023 after a Player of the Year campaign the season prior. She is 11th in the world ranking.
|Like Vu, Boutier won four times on the LPGA this season including a major (Amundi Evian Championship). English, meanwhile, won this event’s previous iteration three times alongside partner Matt Kuchar along with two runner-up finishes.
|Last year, Korda paired with Denny McCarthy at this event’s previous iteration. This year, Korda – who had nine LPGA top 10s this year and won on the Ladies European Tour – is alongside Finau, who won twice on the PGA TOUR this season.
|This year, Fowler returned to the TOUR winner’s circle for the first time since 2019 and returned to the Ryder Cup as well. Thompson nearly made the cut at the Shriners Children’s Open on the PGA TOUR this fall and ended her LPGA season with three straight top 10s – her best results of the year.
|Glover won back-to-back events on TOUR this fall including the FedEx St. Jude Championship to open the FedExCup Playoffs. Maguire, meanwhile, won the Meijer LPGA Classic and had six top 10s.
|This will be Reid’s first start since she and wife Carly welcomed their son on Nov. 11. Henley won the World Wide Technology Championship and ended up 14th in the FedExCup standings.
|Hoge returns to Tiburón as the “defending” champion this year, but with a new partner in Knight. Knight already has a win with a partner this year. She and Elizabeth Szokol won the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational on the LPGA (its annual team event) in July.
|Horschel finished runner-up at Tiburón in 2021 and had three top-10s on the PGA TOUR this season. Lee, meanwhile, had the same number of top 10s on the LPGA and made her Solheim Cup debut this fall.
|McCarthy, who finished T5 alongside Nelly Korda last year at this event’s prior iteration, will now pair with Korda’s good friend Megan Khang. Khang captured her first LPGA title this summer at the CPKC Women’s Open and was a sparkplug on the American Solheim Cup team.
|An all-English pairing. Rose won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February, had five top 10s and was a leader on the winning European Ryder Cup team. Hull was part of the European Solheim Cup team that retained the cup, while she had an equal parts impressive and maddening four runner-up finishes in 2023.
|Yin made a big splash in her second year on the LPGA. At just 20, Yin won twice including the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and reached No. 1 in the world. Taylor won the RBC Canadian Open, becoming the first Canadian to win on home soil on the men’s side in 69 years. Yin’s current caddie used to work for Taylor, while the pair share a short-game coach.
|The other half of last year’s winning duo, Theegala, will look to put a bow on a fabulous fall after his first TOUR win in September at the Fortinet Championship. He’s paired with Zhang, who made an immediate impact on the LPGA after a star-studded amateur and collegiate career at Stanford. Zhang won her first LPGA start as a pro, the Mizuho Americas Open, the first time that’s happened since 1951.
FORMAT: The 16 mixed teams will play three distinct formats including scramble, Foursomes and modified Four-ball. The first round will feature scramble and the second round will utilize Foursomes (alternate shot). The third round will feature a new format to team play. In the “modified Four-ball,” both players will tee off and then they will switch balls for their second shots and play that ball until holed. The lower score of the partners will count as the team score.
COURSE: Tiburón Golf Club
Men: par 72, 7,382 yards
Women: par 72, 6,595 yards.
A previous iteration of this event was played at Tiburón from 2001 to 2022. The layout is also the host of the LPGA’s season-ending CME Group Tour Championship (this year won by Amy Yang, who fired a tournament course-record 27 under). The course is littered with waste areas and water hazards, and a creative short game is required.
72-HOLE RECORD: 179, Matt Kuchar/Harris English (2020)
18-HOLE RECORD: 55, Ryan Palmer/Harold Varner III (first round, 2019), Day/Cameron Tringale (first round, 2014), Greg Norman/Steve Elkington (third round, 2005), Peter Jacobsen/John Cook (third round, 1998), Greg Norman/Nick Price (third round, 1993)
LAST TIME: At the 2022 QBE Shootout, this event’s previous iteration, Hoge and Theegala defeated Palmer and Charley Hoffman by one shot on the strength of a final-round 62. Hoge and Theegala, who entered the final round two shots off the lead, became the first rookie team to win the QBE Shootout since 2011. Hoge won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am earlier in the year, while Theegala finally broke through for his first TOUR title at this year’s Fortinet Championship.
There were two LPGA stars in the field last year. Nelly Korda finished tied for fifth alongside Denny McCarthy, while Lexi Thompson finished tied for 12th with Maverick McNealy.
HOW TO WATCH (all times ET)
- Friday: 1-4 p.m. (Golf Channel)
- Saturday: 2-3 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3-5 p.m. (NBC)
- Sunday: 1-2 p.m. (Golf Channel), 2-4 p.m. (NBC)