West Coast Swing tees off as The American Express returns to La Quinta
The party once known as the Bob Hope Classic will be considerably tamer this year, as the PGA Tour’s annual visit to the Coachella Valley will be held without fans in attendance due to COVID-19 restrictions. But that doesn’t mean The American Express – the event is in its second year being sponsored by the credit card company – will be any less exciting.
Fans can tune in on Golf Channel from January 21-24, and with homes lining all three courses in the rotation, plenty of homeowners will likely set up in their backyards for a closer look. When they do, they’ll watch a field of 156 of the world’s top players plying their trade with a $6.7 million purse on the line, a group that already includes nine of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Among those are World No. 2 and the 2028 winner of the tournament Jon Rahm (Editor's note: Rahm withdrew from the event this week with no reason given) and World No. 12 Brooks Koepka, a four-time major championship winner, who will play in the event for the first time in his career. The next highest-ranked player currently in the field, at No. 15, is 21-year-old Westlake High product Matthew Wolff, who had a pair of top-four finishes in major championships last year.
Defending champion Andrew Landry will return, as will past champions Adam Long, Hudson Swafford, Jason Dufner, Bill Haas, Brian Gay, Mark Wilson, Jhonattan Vegas, Pat Perez, D.J. Trahan and Charley Hoffman. Two-time winner Phil Mickelson is the tournament host and is in the field once again.
Mickelson, Koepka, Dufner, Francesco Molinari and Louis Oosthuizen are the major champions committed, and Southern California will be well represented in the field thanks to Rickie Fowler, Hoffman, Perez, Max Homa, Beau Hossler, Jamie Lovemark, J.J. Spaun and Brendan Steele. Players have until January 15 to commit.
Due to COVID-19, the event will see some changes this year. Amateurs will not compete alongside the pros as they normally would Thursday-Saturday. La Quinta Country Club will not be part of the rotation this year, as players will be split among the PGA WEST Nicklaus Tournament (7,159 yards) and the PGA WEST Pete Dye Stadium (7,113 yards) courses for the first two rounds, and the final two rounds will be held on the Stadium Course, among the most difficult in the desert. Rather than a 54-hole cut, the field will be reduced after the second round, just like in most PGA Tour events.
New to the event will be The American Express Charity Challenge, a televised nine-hole exhibition match hosted by The American Express tournament host Mickelson and broadcast by Golf Channel, PGA TOUR LIVE, GOLFTV and on social platforms on Wednesday, January 20, at 2 p.m..
The challenge will feature American Express ambassador Tony Finau and Paul Casey alongside celebrity partners playing for a $1 million charity prize that will benefit a number of Coachella Valley charities through the Mickelson Foundation. Each of the competitors will represent a different philanthropic cause to which their winnings will be donated.
While the tournament has been played on a number of different courses throughout a history that dates back to 1960, it has always been known as a birdie-fest. Players compare the weather conditions to playing in a dome, and as a result, the courses are always in terrific shape. The last two years have seen winning scores of 26 under par, and the all-time low was 36-under, carded by Joe Durant in 2001.
It’s a great way to kick off the PGA Tour’s West Coast Swing, even without the crowds that usually flock to “The Hope” to watch the pros for a few days.
The two other West Coast Swing events slated for Southern California are The Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines (January 28-31) and the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club (February 18-21).
CLICK HERE for more information on The American Express.
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