With former host Phil Mickelson and other past champions now with LIV Golf, American Express moves on

With former host Phil Mickelson and other past champions now with LIV Golf, American Express moves on

The American Express is back in the desert for the 64th consecutive year this week.

But it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room. It’s time to talk about the impact LIV golf has, or not, on the desert PGA Tour event.

Defending American Express champion Hudson Swafford will not be on the course this week because he left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf last year. Three other previous champions will also be missing for the same reason: Patrick Reed, Pat Perez and, above all, Phil Mickelson.

Mickelson, a two-time winner of the La Quinta tournament, has also served as the official host for American Express for the past three years, though he did nothing publicly appear to host the tournament in 2022. He may be gone. the tournament as host only after last year anyway, but the PGA Tour showed Mickelson and the Mickelson Foundation the door after comments he made became public about the Saudis behind the LIV tour and Mickelson’s reason to deal with “scary” people in order to reshape the PGA Tour.

And there are some other LIV players who are not on the field, such as Abraham Ancer and Kevin Na. So what does all that mean for American Express 2023?

Well, not so much, actually.

The people running the American Express can only play the hand they’re dealt, and that means no Mickelson or Swafford or some other players. But in terms of poker, American Express still has a live hand.

Yes, the tournament doesn’t have at least one standout player in Mickelson, who has been wildly popular in the desert with fans, though not always with tournament officials. Even at 52 and well past his prime, Mickelson would sell a few tickets to the event.

And Swafford won’t be a figure early in the week, talking about his two wins on the desert, the weather and the golf courses.

But aside from an earlier-week press conference from Swafford and whatever week-long history Mickelson might provide, American Express will carry on as it always has. Talented golfers, interesting golf courses and perhaps sketchy weather earlier in the week will be the stories.

That’s not to say LIV golfers aren’t good players. They are, and some are exceptional players who would be great additions to any tournament in the world. However, not everyone has played in the desert in the past, and the tournament can easily move forward with golfers who are not suspended and have committed to the event.

Mickelson is really the only missing item this week that is difficult to replace. He is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and will go down in history as one of the best in the history of the Tour. Guys with that resume don’t fall out of trees.

Reed is a former American Express winner and former Masters champion. But reigning Masters champion Scottie Scheffler is in the La Quinta field as are previous Masters winners Danny Willett and Zach Johnson.

One of the best players in the game, Jon Rahm, also returns this week. 2018 American Express champion Rahm just won his eighth PGA Tour event, is coming off a year of winning on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour and looks poised for a second major title this year.

Patrick Cantlay, one of the best players in the game, signs up this week as do Xander Schauffele and Will Zalatoris. Rising stars like Sahith Theegala, Tom Kim, and Tom Hoge, accomplished veterans like Stewart Cink and Justin Rose, and more rising stars than you can name are also in the desert.

You can be on either side of the LIV vs. PGA Tour, and that’s okay. But the key thing about PGA Tour events right now is that they have remarkably deep courses, deeper than LIV courses. And the PGA Tour events are on TV.

No one is sure how LIV vs. the PGA Tour, and we may not know until a court case scheduled for a year from now. But American Express can’t wait for that. The tournament is set to hold an $8 million, 72-hole tournament this week, hoping to raise more than $1 million for Coachella Valley charities.

American Express, tournament officials, and volunteers will be doing all of that this week, with or without the LIV players. Who knows, maybe in 2024 they’ll all get together and make up and be happy to be in the Coachella Valley come January.

Ready

Here are 5 things to know about the Korn Ferry Tour ahead of the 2023 season, which kicks off on Sunday.

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The story originally appeared on GolfWeek

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