Nov 25, 2019
Bob HarigESPN Senior Writer
- Senior golf writer for ESPN.com
- Covered golf for more than 20 years
- Earned Evans Scholarship to attend Indiana University
Phil Mickelson is expanding his role with the long-time Palm Springs, California, area golf tournament now known as the American Express by signing on to become the tournament host.
The tournament played over three courses in La Quinta, California, has a long history that dates to 1960 and was for many years known as the Bob Hope Classic.
“It’s always been an important part of my life,” said Mickelson, who attended a ceremony on Saturday; a national announcement about the arrangement was to be made Monday.
Phil Mickelson had more of a behind-the-scenes role last year at La Quinta. He finished in a tie for second in the tournament. Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
“I would come out here and play junior tournaments here,” he said. “I’ve always been passionate about here, and I love the tournament itself. But more than that, this tournament has meant historically a lot to this area, and I want to bring back the vision of Bob Hope.”
In Hope’s time, the event was an early-January staple that attracted scores of celebrities and business types to its pro-am format. The event has undergone several name changes in recent years and was played in 2019 without a title sponsor.
American Express signed a five-year title sponsorship agreement that begins with the 2020 event, to be played Jan. 16-19, according to Jeff Sanders, executive director of the event.
“Having Phil Mickelson as host is huge news for the Coachella Valley,” Sanders said. “Phil is obviously an iconic player. He has a home in the Valley. He grew up playing junior golf in the area. He loves it. And he likes starting his year with this tournament. He comes here early to work on his game. It’s only a couple of hours from his home on the coast (San Diego).
“For us, it’s a huge deal. We’ve got an unbelievable global brand, and partnering with the PGA Tour and Phil Mickelson, we feel we’ve got a trifecta there. That’s as good as it gets. That’s a recipe for success.”
Mickelson, who has 44 PGA Tour victories, including two at the tournament, has been the tournament’s ambassador for the past three years, more of a behind-the-scenes role.
“Now we have the partner that we want to bring it to a whole other level,” Mickelson said. “American Express asked that myself and my foundation take on a bigger role, the PGA Tour asked me to take on a bigger role. My wife and I, Amy, we’ve decided this is the right fit, and we want to have a more direct involvement with the charitable support and donation here in the valley.”
The tournament had already announced an $800,000 purse increase to $6.7 million, with the winner receiving $1,206,000. The 156-player tournament also features 156 amateurs who play the first three rounds over three courses.
Those amateurs are paired and play with two pros each day. They pay $30,000 to play the three-day pro-am portion, with the top teams advancing to Sunday for the final round. Sanders said the pro-am is sold out for 2020.
Mickelson joins Woods, who hosts the Genesis Invitational at Riviera — as well as next week’s Hero World Challenge — and Love, who just hosted the RSM Classic that concluded on Sunday.