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Female golfers take part in The Match for the first time in historic edition


By Callum Sutherland, CNN

(CNN) — From NFL quarterback greats locking horns to clashes between golf’s most notorious rivals, Capital One’s The Match series has delivered on a unique approach to entertainment in recent years.

Next month, the ninth and latest edition is set to make even more history: for the first time, the series will include female participants.

Broadcast live by TNT Sports, the event will include four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, 11-time LPGA champion Lexi Thompson, as well as rising LPGA Tour star Rose Zhang and Max Homa, a six-time PGA Tour winner and member of Team USA at the 2023 Ryder Cup.

Teeing off at 6:30 p.m. ET (11:30 p.m. GMT) on February 26, Capital One’s The Match will take place under lights across a 12-hole event at The Park course in West Palm Beach, Florida. Every golfer will tee off at the same point for the first four par-3 holes, while the remaining eight will vary in terms of tee box and yardage for the men and women.

Each hole on the course will be worth a certain amount of charity money, with this year’s event supporting First Tee, a youth organization – chaired by PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan – which aims to develop children’s social skills through golf.

Capital One’s The Match has raised more than $38 million for a number of causes across the United States across its eight previous events, organizers said in a press release.

Opened in 2023, the newly-transformed The Park course had been a PGA Tour stop throughout the 1950s and 60s, and now includes facilities tailored for youth classes, namely a two-acre golf area just for children.

‘This could be amazing for the women’s game’

McIlroy will be out for retribution after suffering defeat in his first and only experience of Capital One’s The Match two years ago, a comprehensive loss alongside Tiger Woods at the hands of long-time friends Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth in Florida.

“Last time, Tiger and I sort of got our butts handed to us by JT and Jordan, so hopefully, I can get my first win in this thing,” said McIlroy, who clinched his first silverware of the year at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday.

The Northern Irishman is hopeful the event’s first mixed line-up can help “elevate” the women’s game.

“The only other comparable I can have to golf is tennis, where they do play a lot in the same venues and in the same tournaments – that doesn’t really happen with the men and the women’s game in golf,” McIlroy added.

“It’ll certainly give all of us, but especially the two girls, a different platform on which to show showcase their skills … something like this could be amazing for the women’s game down the road.”

McIlroy heaped praise on the “explosive” Thompson and “absolute phenom” Zhang, an American duo who embody the bright present and future of the LPGA Tour.

At 28, Thompson is already a seasoned champion, boasting a major title – the 2014 Chevron Championship – among her 11 LPGA Tour victories. In October, she became just the seventh woman to compete on the PGA Tour.

Meanwhile, Zhang is among the game’s most exciting prospects, not just in recent years, but ever. The 20-year-old Stanford student made her first professional start last June after spending a record 141 weeks as the top amateur player in the world and won on her first attempt, besting major champion Jennifer Kupcho in a sudden death playoff at the Mizuho Americas Open to become the first player to win an LPGA tournament on her pro debut in 72 years.

Zhang said: “Playing against PGA stars, it’s something that I never really imagined would happen.

“It’s just such a great opportunity for myself to test my game against the best in the world on the PGA side, and to open up my horizons a lot more. This is really a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“You don’t really get to compete with the men a lot as a woman, and to do so, it’s kind of a huge honor.”

World No. 7 Homa completes the lineup after a PGA Tour season that saw him win twice and record 13 top-10 finishes across 25 events, an impressive year slightly marred by a stinging defeat at hands of McIlroy and Team Europe on his Ryder Cup debut in Rome in October.

TNT Sports (formerly known as Turner Sports and briefly as Warner Bros. Discovery Sports) is the division of Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), which owns CNN.

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