LPGA to start 2021 season with spectators present at Orlando

Miami (AFP) –


The LPGA Tour will stage the Tournament of Champions with spectators for its 2021 season opener on January 21-24 at Orlando, Florida, the women's circuit announced Thursday.

The event, which mixes top players and celebrities, will be contested at Tranquilo Golf Course at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club and return through 2024 as part of a three-year contract extension announced Thursday with Diamond Resorts.

"We can't wait to kick off our season with our friends across sports and entertainment for the next four years," LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said.

Mexico's Gaby Lopez is the defending champion, while former Major League Baseball pitcher John Smoltz will chase a third consecutive celebrity crown in January.

"The parties, the food, the atmosphere -– this isn't just any tournament. This is one we definitely all hope to play in every year," said fourth-ranked Danielle Kang of the United States.

A limited number of spectators will be allowed to attend following state, local and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, including medical screenings, daily temperature checks, face masks and social distancing.

"Spectators are a vital part of our electric tournament atmosphere and we're thrilled to safely welcome fans to Orlando this January," Diamond Resorts chief executive Mike Flaskey said.