Larry Bohannan, The Desert Sun
Before Jay Monahan was commissioner of the PGA Tour, he worked in sales for the tour, putting deals together for tournaments with new sponsors. So Monahan knows all too well the struggles of the desert’s PGA Tour event over the last decade.
“In retrospect, it has been a fight,” Monahan said Thursday in an exclusive interview with The Desert Sun at the American Express tournament. “But if you look back when Humana came on board and CareerBuilder came on board, there was a lot of promise. There is a lot of energy that went into it. There are a number of reasons that it just didn’t work out.”
As the tournament takes a new turn with American Express as the sponsor and Phil Mickelson as the host, Monahan believes there are great things ahead for a tournament that nearly died in 2011.
“To have American Express here and with Steve Squeri (head of American Express), to have Jeff Sanders (executive director of the event for Lagardere Sports) who has been in the market for the time that he’s been here, for the progress that has been made, and American Express to plug into that, you have an outline for the future of the event,” Monahan said.
Monahan said that he believes what has been accomplished in the event for 2020 in the short time that American Express and Mickelson have been on board is remarkable. In particular, he loves having American Express back as a title sponsor on a tour event for the first time since 2006.
The return of a major sponsor
“We are very fortunate, if you look over the course of our schedule, we’ve got great companies, great leaders, great brands that have made long-term commitments to our sport,” Monahan said. “American Express has continued to stay involved in golf with their partnership with the USGA, so they have been in the game.
"But the beauty of this is their commitment to the event, their commitment to the Coachella Valley. And now Jeff, who I think is an extraordinary executive director, can now plan multiple years out.”
Monahan made sure to echo what American Express, Mickelson and Lagardere Sports has said time and again in recent months that the new Phil Mickelson Foundation will not be taking tournament proceeds out of the desert.
“There has been some discussion about the charitable dollars, and to know that 100 percent of the money is going to stay in the valley, I think when people start to see the energy and the involvement of Phil, with American Express, I think people are going to be really pleased with this move,” Monahan said.
“I think people need to trust it, because when Phil Mickelson says it, American Express says it, Jeff Sanders says it, the PGA Tour says it, you have to trust it,” he added.
Monahan had good things to say about the 60-year-history of Desert Classic Charities running the desert tournament, but he added that change comes to all things, even if that change is hard. That change includes the addition of events like the concerts that are now part of the American Express.
Stevie Nicks, a rock and roll legend, and Luke Bryan, one of the biggest names in country music today, will perform concerts on the PGA West driving range. Nicks will perform Friday night and Bryan will play Saturday to what are expected to be the largest crowds of the four years of concerts at the tournament.
Growing the game
“Our number one objective as an organization is to grow and diversify our fan base. You look at the way our tournaments are evolving, the week of the tournament, Monday though Sunday, golf is the central component,” Monahan said. “But tournaments are living, breathing organisms in their communities. And you have to attract the core fan, and what we call drama seekers, the sports fans. You’ve got to draw them in.”
Monahan added that the changes in the tournament this year should be a sign to fans that the tour wants to stay in the Coachella Valley.
“There is a lot of demand for the PGA Tour. We have a commitment to the valley and we have a history that dates back to 1960 that becomes part of the fabric of who you are,” Monahan said. “So we are always going to do everything we can, and we have in this case, to build a long-term sustainable recipe for success here.”
Larry Bohannan is The Desert Sun golf writer. He can be reached at (760) 778-4633 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @Larry_Bohannan. Support local journalism: Subscribe to the Desert Sun.
Larry Bohannan, Palm Springs Desert Sun
In victory or defeat, apparently it just can’t be easy for Andrew Landry at the American Express golf tournament.
Two years after dueling Jon Rahm down the stretch at the Stadium Course at PGA West and eventually falling in a four-hole playoff, Landry was cruising to a victory on the same course Sunday. But three stumbling bogeys in the middle of the back nine and a red-hot Abraham Ancer saw Landry’s six-shot lead disappear with two holes to play.
Somehow, Landry discovered his game again and hit a great tee shot on the par-3 17th to set up a go-ahead birdie. Another birdie on the 18th hole gave Landry a two-shot victory that seemed a foregone conclusion one hour earlier.
"It was a test, it was a big test because the tee shot there on 13, that's a tough tee shot," Landry said. "And 14 was kind of a hole where it was kind of an in between and I didn't really want to hit driver, but I was just trying to take the bunker out of play completely, and I wanted to have more of a full shot in there."
But at just the right time, Landry was able to make some of the biggest shots of his career to stop the bogey run and make the key birdies.
"I just kind of calmed myself down and said, hey, look, these are two holes that we can go out and get. They suit my game very well, especially 18," Landry said.
Landry finished the day with a 5-under 67 for a four-day total of 26-under 262. Ancer, six shots off the lead at the start of the round, tied the Stadium Course competitive scoring record with a 9-under 63, a round that looked like it might be good enough for a victory for the Mexican star.
Scottie Scheffler, an overnight co-leader with Landry, eagled the 16th hole to fight back from a disappointing front nine and finished alone in third at 23-under with a final-round 70.
As Landry and Abraham combined for 17 birdies on the day, some high-profile players struggled. Rickie Fowler, in the final group with Landry and Scheffler, managed just a 71 and finished at 18-under, tied for 10th. Tony Finau, the highest-ranked player in the field from the Official World Rankings, took a double bogey and a bogey on consecutive holes on the front nine. He finished at 69 for the day and 17-under for the week.
The victory is Landry’s second on the PGA Tour, the first since the 2018 Valero Texas Open. The performance in the Coachella Valley is in stark contrast to the rest of Landry's 2019-20 season, where he has missed seven cuts in eight starts, including missing the last five cuts in a row.
"It's crazy. This is the wildest game that you can play. That's why you just got to keep grinding it out," Landry said. "We all search for these weeks, and the majority of players out here are going to have them, four, five, six times a year and top-10 players are going to have them a little bit more often.
"So these are the weeks that we search for and we just continue to just play our ball and keep doing what we do, and hopefully they come sooner than later."
With three birdies to open the back nine, Landry moved to 27-under par and held a six-shot lead over Ancer. But a three-putt bogey at the 13th, a mistake from off the back of the green on the 14th hole with a putter and a stubbed chip on the 15th hole saw three shots shaved off Landry’s score.
At the same time, Ancer was making a birdie on the 14th and hitting the pin with an eagle chip on the par-5 16th. When Ancer rolled in a 25-foot birdie on the 17th, he shared the lead for the first time.
"On 17, right before I hit my tee shot, I realized I was tied. I thought I was going to be maybe two, three back, and then I looked up," said Ancer, who was one off on his calculations. "At the beginning of the round, I just said I just need to make as many birdies as I can and try and see what happens. So I wasn't paying much attention to the leader board.
"And then that's when I noticed and I was like, all right, well, we got to make two other birdies," Ancer added. "I made the putt there on 17, which was big, and then just couldn't make it happen on 18. But I played good, man. I'm proud of how I played."
As Ancer was making a routine par on the 18th, Landry steadied his game with his tee shot on the 17th, leaving him just seven feet for his go-ahead birdie. Another solid iron to just six feet on the 18th meant Landry had two putts for victory. He only needed one.
While Ancer lost by two shots, he was happy with the performance in search of his first PGA Tour title.
"It was good shooting a low round like that when I needed to, shoot a very low one to have a chance," said Ancer, who lives in McAllen, Texas. "And I knew that and I knew the shots I had to pull off and that just gives me a lot of confidence. Seeing the ball go in a lot, making a lot of birdies, obviously, moving forward definitely gives me confidence."
As for the drama of his two leader board performances at the American Express -- Landry missed the cut in the event last year -- Landry had a simple answer.
"It's hard to win out here.
Rickie Fowler, Tony Finau, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Matthew Wolff Join Phil Mickelson in The American Express™ Player Field
Today during a press conference at The American Express™ Media Day at PGA WEST, American Express® and Lagardère Sports announced that top-ranked PGA TOUR players and 2018 Ryder Cup competitors Rickie Fowler, Tony Finau, Francesco Molinari and Paul Casey, as well as rising star Matthew Wolff, have committed to the field joining three-time Masters Champion and PGA TOUR player host Phil Mickelson.
Fowler, Molinari and Casey were each winners on the PGA TOUR last season and each made their respective 2018 Ryder Cup teams. Fowler is a five-time winner on the PGA TOUR while Molinari and Casey each have three PGA TOUR wins. Molinari is also a major champion as he won the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Links in 2018.
Wolff took the PGA TOUR by storm this past summer when he claimed his first PGA TOUR win at the 3M Open in July. After turning professional in June at just 20 years old, Wolff received a sponsor exemption to enter the 3M Open and won the even in a playoff over Bryson DeChambeau and Collin Morikawa. He became just the seventh player to win in his fourth career start or earlier and the first player since Jordan Spieth to win before his 21st birthday.
Tony Finau is ranked #16 in the Official World Golf Rankings and was chosen by Tiger Woods as a Captain’s Pick on the United States Presidents Cup team. Finau also played in the 2018 Ryder Cup with Fowler, Molinari and Casey.
“I’m excited to announce I’ll be playing in The American Express in La Quinta, California in January. I’m a proud American Express ambassador and I know from my experience with them as a partner, as well as their long-standing presence in golf, that they will bring a world-class experience for fans and players alike, to an event that is rich in history on our Tour,” said Finau.
The recent announcements including American Express as the event title sponsor, Phil Mickelson as PGA TOUR host, The Mickelson Foundation as the event host organization and musical performances by Stevie Nicks and Luke Bryan have continued to add excitement and positive momentum to The American Express. The early commitments from this group of elite players will continue to add to that.
“We are thrilled with the commitments of PGA TOUR winners and popular fan favorites Rickie Fowler, Tony Finau, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey and Matthew Wolff. These players provide proven star power to the event,” said Jeff Sanders, President of Golf Events for Lagardère Sports. “It is very exciting to welcome American Express as our new title sponsor, our fan favorite host Phil Mickelson as well as many of the best golfers in the world to PGA West in January.”
The American Express will be played at the iconic PGA WEST Stadium, PGA WEST Nicklaus and La Quinta Country Club courses, January 16-19, 2020.
Daily event tickets are on sale now for just $35 for Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday and $50 for Friday and Saturday. American Express Card Members will receive a 20% discount on tickets, as well as on all concessions and merchandise at the tournament. All tickets include admission to the PGA TOUR golf tournament and three on-course hospitality venues: the Albertsons Vons Pavilions Club 18, Casamigos Tequila Club 17 and Michelob Ultra Beers fore Birdies.
Friday and Saturday tickets will also include admission to the concert after golf on the PGA WEST driving range. Friday night will feature Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Stevie Nicks and taking the stage on Saturday night will be country music superstar Luke Bryan.
There are no cover charges or upgraded tickets needed for admission to the on-course hospitality venues or to attend the concerts.
For more event information and to buy tickets please visit www.TheAmexGolf.com.
By Blake Arthur
Jeff Sanders sat down with Sports Director Blake Arthur to talk about this year's tournament, which has a new name and new host in golf legend Phil Mickelson.
The American Express, the annual PGA TOUR event in our valley, is from January 15-19th in La Quinta. This is the 61st edition of the tournament, formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic.
In addition to golf, there is a concert series, featuring Stevie Nicks and Luke Bryan. Fans can watch golf and enjoy music for $50 per day ($40 for American Express cardholders).
Stay with KESQ for continuing coverage of the tournament. For more on The American Express golf tournament, visit their website at theamexgolf.com.
Country Music Star Luke Bryan and Rock and Roll Legend Stevie Nicks to Perform at The American Express™ PGA TOUR Event in January
Tickets are on sale now and include admission to the golf tournament and concerts at PGA WEST.
La Quinta, CA – The American Express™ PGA TOUR golf event taking place January 15-19 in La Quinta, CA, announced today that rock and roll icon Stevie Nicks and country music star Luke Bryan will perform on Friday and Saturday evenings at PGA WEST following the golf tournament.
The event, which recently announced a new title sponsor in American Express®, will again provide fans with festival-style entertainment, bringing together amazing music, great local food and the world’s best golfers – all on one stage.
Kicking off the concert series on Friday night will be legendary rock and roll performer and songwriter, Stevie Nicks. Nicks’ work with Fleetwood Mac and her successful solo career resulted in her becoming the only female to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice – first in 1998 as a member of Fleetwood Mac and in 2019 as a solo artist. She has produced over forty top-50 hits and was named one of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time by Rolling Stone in 2012.
Taking the stage on Saturday night is country music superstar Luke Bryan who has won more than 40 major awards including two Academy of Country Music and two Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year Awards. He has served as host of the ACM Awards five times, became an NSAI Artist/Songwriter of the Year and was named a CMT Artist of the Year six times. He has more certified digital singles than any other country artist, with 54 million tracks and 12.5 million albums with seven Billion music streams and has had 23 #1 singles, 12 of which he co-wrote.
“We are very excited to bring in two amazing rock and roll and country music artists to perform for our fans this year,” said Jeff Sanders, Executive Director of The American Express and President of the Golf Event Division of Lagardère Sports, the global company that promotes and operates the event. “American Express and the PGA TOUR are two of the most respected global brands coming together in the desert to provide our fans, sponsors and American Express Card Members one of the best fan experiences in sports while supporting many local charities.”
The American Express will be played at the iconic PGA WEST Stadium, PGA WEST Nicklaus and La Quinta Country Club courses, January 16-19. Phil Mickelson, the 44-time PGA TOUR winner and World Golf Hall of Famer, will serve as tournament host, competing against 155 of the best golfers in the world including defending champion Adam Long.
Daily event tickets are on sale now for just $35 for Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday and $50 for Friday and Saturday. All tickets include admission to the PGA TOUR golf tournament and three on-course hospitality venues: the Albertsons Vons Pavilions Club 18, Casamigos Tequila Club 17 and Michelob Ultra Beers fore Birdies. Friday and Saturday tickets will also include admission to the concert after golf. There are no cover charges or upgraded tickets needed for admission to the on-course hospitality venues or to attend the concerts.
For more event information and to buy tickets please visit www.TheAmexGolf.com.
Larry Bohannan, Palm Springs Desert SunPublished 6:00 a.m. PT Sept. 9, 2019
An international blue-chip financial giant will bring its name and its services to the Coachella Valley’s PGA Tour event in January.
American Express, one of the largest companies in the world and one of the 30 companies listed on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, will be the new title sponsor for the 61-year-old desert tour event, The Desert Sun has learned.
The multi-year sponsorship deal will re-brand the desert event as The American Express. An official announcement is expected Monday morning.
“This is absolutely the best sponsor we could ask for,” said Jeff Sanders of Lagardere Sports, the company that operates the tournament for Desert Classic Charities. “This is the best news we have received since we took over the opportunity to run this event. American Express is an iconic global brand that transcends quality. We could not be more excited.”
A high-profile sponsor
Founded in 1850 and best known for its credit card and traveler’s checks, American Express becomes the highest-profile sponsor of the desert tournament since Chrysler left the desert after the 2008 tournament when the auto manufacturer was accepting federal bailout money during that economic recession.
Some details of the new agreement, including the length of the sponsorship deal and whether the tournament’s $5.9 million purse will increase, are still being finalized and could be announced later this month.
“Our new multi-year sponsorship with this historic PGA Tour event is a perfect match,” said Stephen J. Squeri, chairman and CEO of American Express, in a statement announcing the agreement. “Golf consistently ranks as one of the top passions of our card members, and the tour provides some of the most exciting experiences at some of the best venues the game offers. We’re looking forward to making The American Express a ‘must-see’ event for fans and card members alike.”
After Chrysler left the tournament in 2008, the tournament was played for three years without a sponsor under the Bob Hope Classic name. Since then, healthcare provider Humana in conjunction with the Clinton Foundation sponsored the event for four years and employment company CareerBuilder sponsored the tournament for three years.
Seeking a sponsor for a year
CareerBuilder announced last November it was withdrawing from the event, leaving the tournament without a title sponsor last January, though CareerBuilder still funded the event.
American Express immediately becomes one of the largest companies with a title sponsor on the PGA Tour, but the company is no stranger to golf. It has supported events for decades, including a 13-year run as one of the corporate sponsors for the U.S. Open.
“We are extremely pleased to welcome American Express as the new title sponsor for what will be known as The American Express,” said Tyler Dennis, chief of operations for the PGA Tour. “With its historic connection to the great Bob Hope, the tournament has been a popular fixture in the Palm Springs area since 1960 and holds the distinction of being one of two PGA Tour tournaments where amateurs actually play during tournament competition. Through this new relationship, The American Express will continue as an important part of the West Coast Swing.”
Pro-am remains part of the tournament
While many details of the sponsorship agreement are still being finalized, the pro-am format of the tournament will remain in place. That pro-am, part of the event since its debut in 1960, currently has two PGA Tour pros playing with two amateurs in each foursome of the event.
Tournament officials already have announced that the three-course format of the tournament, featuring the Stadium Course and the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West and La Quinta Country Club, will continue in 2020.
The pro-am, something Sanders has said was a selling point for a sponsor, will apparently be a big part of American Express’ imprint in the desert. The title sponsor will receive a yet-unspecified number of the 156 amateur berths, and American Express is expected to give those berths to its premier customers and clients.
“We believe that the match-up between American Express and American Express clients playing with the professionals in the desert is really unique and special,” said Sanders.
The financial company could also provide other perks to card members at the tournament, from ticket discounts to special access to events during tournament week.
West Coast swing gets stronger
The American Express is now assured of remaining a part of a strong seven-event West Coast swing for the PGA Tour that includes events in Hawaii, California and Arizona.
The American Express will again be the third event of the new calendar year, played Jan. 16-19, 2020, after two events in Hawaii and one week before the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego.
Adam Long is the defending champion of the event, pulling off a surprising one-shot victory over Adam Hadwin and tournament ambassador Phil Mickelson in January in Long’s sixth PGA Tour start.
Other details about the tournament, including which musical acts will play concerts on the driving range, also will be announced in coming weeks, Sanders said. For now, Sanders says the new sponsorship is a huge win for the desert tournament.
“It elevates the event,” Sanders said. “If we were literally going to go out and hand pick a sponsor to come to the desert and sponsor this tournament, American Express would be at the top of the list.”