The PGA Tour takes the slow play machine to the desert this week for the American Express Championship somewhat hosted by Phil Mickelson.
This is always an interesting tournament as it is played across multiple courses. Typically, it requires some low scores to get the win, but the desert wind has been known to make for some interesting finishes from time to time.
This is one of the Pro-Am tournaments that occur throughout the season and each pro will be paired with an amateur throughout the first three days of the tournament. In the past, the Bob Hope Classic used to draw some pretty big names to the tournament. Nowadays it is more about corporate leaders than Hollywood actors, but every once in a while there will be amateur worth watching.
One of my earliest recollections of this event was David Duval’s 59 in the 1999 version of event. At the time, Duval was playing some unbelievable golf. He had started the season with a win at Kapalua and continued his great play at the Palmer Private course at PGA West. Duval would win the Bob Hope and later that year he would win The Players. That victory would move him to number one in the world rankings.
Since then the tournament has provided nice views for those watching on television and plenty of birdies for those playing in the event. The three courses involved in the tournament are The Stadium Course, The Nicklaus Course, and LaQuinta. These three courses had the lowest scoring averages on Tour last year. The Stadium Course at PGA West is the host course meaning that it will host the final round on Sunday. It is a Pete Dye design and I suppose that it is somewhat fitting that it hosts a PGA Tour event this week. Surely there will be many mentions of Mr Dye during the broadcast and rightly so. While this may not be the most difficult course in the Pete Dye repertoire, it will certainly provide plenty of entertainment coming down the stretch Sunday afternoon.
As for my pick this week, I am going to take a long(ish) shot and choose the tournament host. Phil Mickelson is up to his social media antics and it seems clear that he is ready for one last hoorah on Tour. I think he is more than capable of winning and would not be surprised to see it happen here in the desert. Mickelson is not known for driving accuracy, and fortunately for him, accuracy is not a big deal at these courses. Light rough and reachable par 5s make this course a bombers delight.
This is a tournament that has never taken itself too seriously. A laid back atmosphere, pro-am field, and easy courses has ensured that the stress level will be relatively low. Given the fact that nothing really seems to bother Phil, I think that this is a recipe for success. Have fun watching the guys in the desert.