Golf World Cup set for shake-up with plans for mixed-gender teams

Ewan Murray
The Guardian
<span>Photograph: Phelan M Ebenhack/AP</span>
Photograph: Phelan M Ebenhack/AP

Female golfers could be the biggest beneficiaries from an ambitious scheme to revolutionise the sport’s World Cup, with plans afoot to boost prize money and introduce mixed gender teams. Detailed talks about the World Cup, a biennial event which does not resonate deeply within the sport, have been ongoing for a number of months. The plan would see the competition’s purse boosted from $7m to upwards of $10m, with female golfers entering the fold seen as commercially beneficial.

A bigger prize fund would, of course, be welcomed by male participants, but it would make a more significant impact on the female game as players look to close the pay gap between themselves and members of the PGA Tour in particular.

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The US-based LPGA Tour announced what was essentially a takeover of the Ladies European Tour in late 2019. Improvements to the women’s schedule in Europe that followed were widely heralded.

Origin Sports Group, where the multi-millionaire Sir Keith Mills is a director, has been integral to the World Cup project. Australia was the recent host of the November event, but even its place in the golfing calendar may be subject to change, with venues in Europe and the Middle East expressing interest in the World Cup under a fresh guise.

Nothing is expected to be in place by the time the World Cup tees off later this year – with Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry to defend the trophy on behalf of Belgium – but alterations for 2022 are entirely plausible.

Origin declined to comment on its involvement when contacted by the Guardian, beyond confirming: “The PGA Tour is working on a variety of options to potentially relaunch the World Cup of Golf and we’ve been in touch with them on several concepts.” A spokesman for the PGA Tour would not reference the World Cup directly but said: “We’ve looked at new ways to promote the game of golf through new formats and certainly an event that would include PGA Tour and LPGA players is something that we will continue to explore.”

In 2016, the PGA and LPGA Tours announced a strategic alliance that pointed heavily towards the introduction of joint events. This June, the European Tour and Ladies European Tour will join up to stage a mixed tournament in Sweden. This competition, hosted by major champions Annika Sorenstam and Henrik Stenson, will see professional men and women going head-to-head on the same course for a single prize and trophy.

Yet a revolution at the World Cup, which unlike many other sports doesn’t routinely feature as a key ambition of players, would be the most significant competitive advancement yet.

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