The PGA Tour’s stop in the Coachella Valley recently hit three courses in La Quinta with its fifth name since 2011. The tournament known last year as the Desert Classic – and before that as the CareerBuilder Challenge, Humana Challenge and Bob Hope – is now The American Express. The field of 156 vying in the $6.7 million tournament included three players in top 20 of the Official World Golf Ranking – American Tony Finau, ranked 15th; Englishman Paul Casey, ranked 17th, and Italian Francesco Molinari, who is ranked 20th. Also, on hand was Rickie Fowler, who was born and raised in Murrieta. Fowler was playing in the tournament for the third time. He missed the cut in 2010 and tied for 33rd in 2014. This year he landed at -18 (270 total) to record his second top 10 finish of 2020 and 72nd of his career.
Many top pros typically bypass the tournament, which comes immediately after the PGA Tour’s two Hawaii events, the Tournament of Champions and Sony Open. American Brooks Koepka, the No. 1-ranked player, opted to play in the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, along with five other players in the top 20.
Tiger Woods also opted not to play as he was set to begin play in 2020 in last weekend’s Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego. Woods would be looking to break his tie with Sam Snead as the PGA Tour’s all-time winningest golfer. The American Express field also includes tournament host Phil Mickelson and six other major championship winners. Mickelson tied for second in last year’s tournament, one shot behind Adam Long. Long is among 10 past winners of what is now The American Express in the field. Long was trying to join Johnny Miller as a back-to-back winner of the tournament, but it would be Andrew Landry that won with a -26, securing a purse of $1.206 million. Miller won the event in 1975 and 1976.
The first three rounds were played at the Stadium Course at PGA West and the Nicklaus Tournament Course, also at PGA West, and the La Quinta Country Club. Sunday’s final round was be played on the Stadium Course, which was designed by Pat Dye, who died earlier this month at age 94.
JP Raineri can be reached by email at email@example.com.