It’s remarkable to see the swings in momentum the PGA Tour desert event has seen over the past 20 years.
In 2002, the event known as the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic was won by Phil Mickelson, one of the most popular and successful golfers in the world. Chrysler was entrenched as one of the tour’s top sponsors. The tournament might be showing its age with the five-day, four-course format, but the celebrity pro-am was still generating interest.
Fast forward nine years and the unsponsored 2011 Bob Hope Classic was literally on life support. This was the event’s third year without a title sponsor, and the tournament board actually talked about giving out all the reserve money at a big party and then closing the tournament rather than even trying to organize an event in 2012.
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Fast forward to 2022 and the tournament has gone the reverse way on the roller coaster. After the arrival and departure of two tournament sponsors, the event now has the mighty American Express as its title sponsor. The concerts after the game draw many fans, and the tournament field is as good or better than it was when Mickelson won in 2002. The $7.6 million purse is the largest in the tournament. tournament history.
The same goes for the PGA Tour, where sponsorship is worth gold and a tournament is only worth the length of its sponsorship contract.
For the moment, the American Express has the wind in its sails. An extension of his sponsorship deal through 2028 is huge for the tournament and the desert golf scene. What he can do in the years to come to improve an area that is already progressing should be exciting for local fans. The evolution of the concert series is also something to watch.
None of this means tournament fans see this week, it’s what tournament fans will see in 2028. event in 1960. Remember there were 13 different courses played. in the event in 63 years, and the current three-course rotation has not changed since the tournament moved to PGA West’s Stadium and Nicklaus Tournament courses in 2016.
Change, but in a good way
It’s easy to look at American Express right now and think, well, that could change or it could change in the years to come. But the wheels of the tournament are as strong now as they have been for at least two decades, and perhaps as strong as they have been since the legendary day in 1995, when three presidents and Bob Hope played together at Indian Wells Country Club in the first round.
Nothing in golf or the sport is guaranteed. Just ask the folks at the LPGA who are preparing to see a major championship leave the Coachella Valley after 51 years in the desert. Ten years ago, the idea of the LPGA leaving and the PGA Tour getting stronger in the desert would have been met with laughter. Today, this scenario is a reality.
So the LPGA will head to a new future in Houston with a new global sponsor, more purse money and new television opportunities. That’s kind of how it goes in sports. The Chevron Championship leaves five decades of desert history behind for what it hopes will be five decades of success in Texas and upgrades from past years in the desert.
The American Express is now dealing with these upgrades to their tournament. And the trajectory – a very corporate word in sports these days – is good for the event, with American Express having six more years as a sponsor.
More gigs, a stronger field and consistency in golf courses may be on the wish list of desert golf fans. So far, things are going pretty well and maybe getting better.
Larry Bohannan is The Desert Sun golf writer, he can be reached at [email protected] or (760) 778-4633. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @larry_Bohannan. Support local journalism. Subscribe to Le Soleil du Désert.