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American Express cancels pro-am; Mickelson to host celebrity charity exhibition in its place

January 07, 2021

The American Express announced Thursday that it has canceled its pro-am and will be conducting the tournament over two courses rather than its traditional three.

The La Quinta event, slated to begin Jan. 21, made the decision due to a COVID-19 outbreak in Riverside County, along with travel restrictions imposed by California. The tournament’s pro-am is one of the oldest on tour, tracing its roots to 1960. For years it was hosted by Bob Hope, and in 1995 featured three U.S. presidents among its field. Phil Mickelson took the event’s hosting reins in 2020.

“This decision by the PGA Tour to modify the pro-am format due to the current COVID-19 climate locally was made out of an abundance of caution with the full support from American Express and the Mickelson Foundation,” said Tyler Dennis, executive vice president of the PGA Tour. “We are fully committed to continuing the positive impact on local charities to the same degree as past years, if not more, and we are grateful to American Express for their support in doing so.”

Without the amateur component, the American Express does not need three courses in its rotation, with PGA West’s Stadium and Nicklaus courses serving as 2021 hosts and La Quinta C.C. sitting out. However, the tournament still plans on contributing $1 million to local charities, hoping to use a Wednesday exhibition helmed by tournament ambassador Mickelsonas as its philanthropic generator. According to a release, Mickelson will host the nine-hole challenge pitting Tony Finau against Paul Casey with celebrity partners in tow.

“We are happy to announce that more than $1 million will go to local charities from the American Express this year despite all of the challenges this pandemic has thrown our way,” Mickelson said.

The decision to cancel the pro-am is notable given its schedule proximity to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. As of earlier this week tournament organizers planned on welcoming amateurs to Carmel for the event, set for Feb. 11-14, announcing that singer Toby Keith and actor Josh Duhamel have been added to the field.