PGA Tour’s American Express cancels pro-am format for ’21

COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc with the sports calendar and while the show will go on at the American Express, it will do so without the celebrities in a pro-am format that has been a staple of the tournament since its debut in 1960. As a result, the tournament held from Jan. 21-24 in La Quinta, California, will be contested this year on only two courses: PGA West’s Stadium Course (host) and Nicklaus Tournament Course.

Given the current local climate in Riverside County caused by COVID-19, and considering national travel associated with the event, the tournament will be played with neither the traditional multi-day pro-am format nor ticketed spectators. The three-day pro-am format is expected to return in 2022.

“The pro-am format at the American Express has been one of the unique and long-standing traditions on the PGA Tour,” said Tyler Dennis, executive vice president and president, PGA Tour. “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. 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. We fully expect and look forward to the return of the traditional pro-am format in 2022.”

To help deliver on the tournament’s charitable goals, American Express and tournament officials will host the American Express Charity Challenge – a televised nine-hole exhibition match hosted by Phil Mickelson on Wednesday, Jan. 20, at 2 p.m. PT. The event will feature American Express ambassador Tony Finau and Paul Casey alongside celebrity partners 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

“Thanks to the fantastic support from our title sponsor American Express and our corporate partners, 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. “I look forward to hosting the American Express Charity Challenge with Tony and Paul to help deliver for the local charities.”

In addition to the charity exhibition, a local pro-am will be conducted on Wednesday morning. The Wednesday pro-am, an integral part of tournaments that drives local charitable giving, returned early in the 2020-21 Tour season as part of a phased approach since the Tour’s return to golf in June, successfully being played over the past six months with a limited number of amateur participants and a stringent health and safety plan, including COVID-19 testing.

For decades the American Express was hosted by comedian Bob Hope and the celebrities that competed in the pro-am included the likes of Presidents Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton all playing together in 1995.

The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which also includes a celebrity pro-am format and is scheduled for Feb. 11-14 in Pebble Beach, California, still is committed to moving forward with the pro-am portion of its event as it has since the tournament was formed in 1937. Toby Keith and Josh Duhamel were the latest celebrities to be announced as participants this week.