Phil Mickelson breaks glass ceiling at KPMG Women’s PGA Championship

Phil Mickelson. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Phil Mickelson. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

Phil Mickelson is taking on Stacy Lewis, Lydia Ko, and Brooke Henderson at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship

Phil Mickelson, short game artiste par excellence, is going head-to-head against some of the best short game players on the LPGA Tour next week!  The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship Skills Challenge will pit Lefty against Stacy Lewis, Lydia Ko, and defending champion Brooke Henderson.

This is a real break-the-glass-ceiling type of contest that will be great fun for everybody. Mickelson, Lewis, Ko, and Henderson will compete against the clock and each other in chipping and flop shot skills tests.

The flop shot challenge involves an eight foot wall and glass panes suspended 20 feet in the air – I’m trying to get a picture of this focused in my head.  It’s going to be quite a show, hosted by ESPN’s Mike Greenberg, with a Q&A session with junior golfers following.

This certainly isn’t the first time we’ve been treated to competition between men and women pros.

From The Babe to Michelle Wie

Babe Zaharias broke that glass ceiling at the Los Angeles Open in 1938, where she missed the cut, and again in 1945. The second time around The Babe became the first woman to make the 36-hole cut at a men’s event, although she missed the 54-hole cut.

More than half a century passed before Annika Sörenstam followed in The Babe’s footsteps when she played at the 2003 Colonial in Ft. Worth on a sponsor’s invite. Like The Babe, Sörenstam missed the cut and declined future invitations to tee it up at PGA TOUR events, but reflecting on her game at Colonial, said:

"I’m proud of the way I was focusing and proud of the decisions I made and that I stuck to them. And that’s why I am here. I wanted to see if I could do it."

Suzy Whaley, who will assume the presidency of the PGA of America in 2018, qualified for the 2003 Greater Hartford Open when she won the 2002 Connecticut Section PGA tournament, an accomplishment that was marred by controversy. Whaley had played from the forward tees in the qualifying event. She played from the tips at the Open and missed the cut.

More from Pro Golf Now

Michelle Wie has compiled quite a list of attempts to successfully compete in men’s pro events – 13 to be precise – starting with the Canadian Tour’s Bay Mills Open Players Championship when she was 13. Wie made the cut once, at the Asian Tour’s 2006 SK Telecom Open when she was 16 and came within stroke or two of making the cut at two PGA TOUR events – the Sony Open, and the John Deere Classic. Unfortunately, close only counts in horseshoes, not golf.

Then there was the immensely popular Monday Night Golf 2001 Battle at Bighorn that introduced, briefly, mixed team competition. Annika Sörenstam and Tiger Woods went up against Karrie Webb and David Duval in a match that went 19 holes. Annika and Tiger took the match into sudden death when Annika holed a 10 foot birdie putt on the 18th and then won outright on the 19th hole.

The lesson in this brief romp through the history of men and women competing on the golf course? Women have a difficult time competing equally off the tee simply because men have a physical advantage in the distance contest. But inside 100 yards, the contest comes down to skill, not muscle mass.

Lefty needs to be practicing his chipping and his flop shot. He has a week to get them dialed it.

Next: NW Arkansas Championship fantasy picks

What do you think? Can Lefty hold his own against Stacy Lewis, Lydia Ko, and Brooke Henderson, who are also short game artistes.