Major winner Pernilla Lindberg will become the first woman golfer to compete at the New Zealand Open on Thursday, ensuring her place in the 101-year-old tournament’s history regardless of results.
The Swede, who won the 2018 ANA Inspiration, was invited to compete with the men after organisers learned she already had plans to visit Queenstown.
Lindberg, ranked 178th in the women’s game, jumped at the chance to play in the picturesque South Island resort town where she married husband Daniel 12 months ago.
“The opportunity to celebrate our first anniversary and combine it with a professional golf event was just too good to miss,” the 33-year-old said.
Tournament director Michael Glading said Lindberg’s presence was a bid to introduce “new ideas” to the event.
“The fact that Pernilla is happy to come and compete in what is traditionally a men’s event makes this a very special addition to the tournament,” he said.
The NZ Open, co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Asian Tour, will be held at Millbrook Resort and The Hills from Thursday to Sunday.
The first two days of the event are staged as a pro-am and will see Lindberg paired with All Blacks rugby star Beauden Barrett.
Female golfers have struggled playing against men at professional level.
Annika Sorenstam, Michelle Wie and Brittany Lincicome have all played men’s tournaments without success, although Wie did make the cut at an event in South Korea in 2006.
Babe Zaharias back in 1945 remains the only woman to make the cut in a US PGA event.
“I’m very realistic with expectations, it’s going to be tough competing against the guys,” Lindberg told Newshub.
She told The Listener magazine that her goal for the tournament, which features 156 professionals, was to “beat just one man”.
Bookmaker Paddypower has her as a 3,000-1 outsider to win the tournament, with the next tier of players on 1,000-1.