Phil Mickelson Announces expanded role for The American Express
The American Express is charging forward with a new host, new vision and new music for 2020.
Wearing shorts and flip-flops totally apropos for a weekend morning in the Coachella Valley and framed by the Tom Fazio-drawn golf grounds of The Madison Club in the backdrop, Phil Mickelson announced to an intimate gathering on Saturday, November 23 that he’s expanding his role in the desert’s long-running PGA Tour event.
Serving as tournament ambassador since 2017, the San Diego-native said he’s now taking on a more formalized role as tournament host.
“There are many reason which have led me to take on a more extensive role,” said Mickelson. “Now, I feel and see and sense the direction this tournament is headed – and it’s something I want to be a part of moving forward.”
Played in 2019 for its 60th anniversary as The Desert Classic, in September, it was announced that American Express was on-board for a multi-year deal as eponymous sponsor. Across six decades of play, the event has raised better than $60 million for charities.
This year’s tournament takes place the week of January 13-19, 2020, again held across the tri-course rota of the Stadium and Nicklaus Tournament Courses at PGA WEST, along with La Quinta Country Club.
Prior to Mickelson’s time at the podium, the tournament’s executive director, Jeff Sanders, announced that bands for this year’s tourney will be Stevie Nicks on Friday night, and Luke Bryan on Saturday night; the concerts are held on the PGA WEST driving range following each day’s play, and attendance is included with the purchase of a general admission ticket.
Mickelson added that the coalesced vision of the new sponsor and Lagardere Sports, which runs the event, all contributed to his decision for a more pronounced presence.
“American Express and the PGA Tour asked that my foundation takes on a bigger role; and my wife Amy and I have decided that it’s the right fit for our foundation,” said the World Golf Hall of Famer. “We want to have a more direct involvement in the charitable support and contributions here in the valley.”
In a conversation specific to the SCGA, the five-time major champ vibed a rebirth of an event that has experienced some down years in recent decades.
“The real goal is to make the golf tournament the place to be in the valley for that week,” said Mickelson. “If we do that – with the golf and the concerts – then all things will fall into play with a strong field, and great financial and charitable support for the community. I’ve already seen the list of CEOs that will be here, and it’s a top-of-the-charts; the amateurs are now fighting to get in, whereas, in the past, we’ve struggled to sell the pro-am spots.”
Mickelson further intimated that a return of celebrity am participants – long an identity for the tournament – could be a part of the rejuvenation.
“I’ve read-up and am trying to commit to Bob Hope’s vision from 60 years ago,” Mickelson told the SCGA. “Along with the key charitable element, it’s bringing together the combination of decision-makers and supporters of golf, as well as celebrities in other areas who help introduce the game to people who otherwise may not have interest.”