Peppy Peter Malnati caught himself quickly and realized he chose the wrong word to convey his point. But the train had already started toward Aggregation Station.
Speaking at the Sanderson Farms Championship, the 2015 winner of the proud cock trophy in Mississippi used the word “gimmick” to describe the Shriners Children’s Open giving an exemption to Lexi Thompson. The 11-time LPGA winner, who has had a brutal year by her standards, will be the seventh woman to compete on the PGA Tour, joining the likes of Annika Sorenstam, Michelle Wie, and Babe Didrikson Zaharias.
Malnati, who instantly retracted his use of the term, was suggesting that this felt like a publicity stunt from a fall event during football season. It was a poor word choice, and adding a bona fide star in professional golf is far from a gimmick. But Malnati, considered to be one of the more thoughtful and upbeat fellas on Tour, quickly tried to clean it up.
“My gut reaction when I saw that was like the tournament reaching to try to get—just trying to drum up interest.” he said. “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.”
I’d argue against his overall point no matter what word he wants to apply to it. Malnati seems to think the fall events will do quite well without publicity plays, even suggesting in the same presser that the “fall will become a blockbuster hit” under the new system. That feels like a fantasy. There are some added stakes with different levels of status up in the air for 2024 and the new “swings” that trigger Signature Event perks in the new season. But it’s still fall Tour golf. It’s mostly out of sight and out of mind.
So the fall should become the land of the gimmicks, publicity plays, and a laboratory for experimentation. Keep some basic guardrails up so it looks more like the PGA Tour than TGL, but try some wildly different formats. Make publicity invites for 10 percent of the fields. Go to random new markets to see if something hits. The biggest story in the NFL right now is that a pop star is sitting in a luxury box, and the league is running to embrace it at every turn. It’s OK to be a little gimmicky and unconventional. It’s sports entertainment and this is the sleepiest part of the schedule. Maybe you get something that pops for a week. Now’s the time to experiment and get wild.
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