The PGA Tour returns to Southern California for another edition of the American Express, better known as the Desert Classic, this January 16-19. The tournament plays over 3 courses and is known for its celebrity pro-am which has included famous singers, movie stars, and even former presidents over the tournament’s long history. This year’s field of golfers is the strongest in recent memory, with Francesco Molinari, Rickie Fowler, Paul Casey, and host Phil Mickelson all teeing off this Thursday.
The tournament was founded in 1960 and immediately stood out for using 4 different courses and 5 rounds, rather than 4, to decide a winner. Initially known as the Palm Springs Golf Classic, the tournament renamed itself the Bob Hope Desert Classic in 1965 after beginning its long relationship with legendary entertainer Bob Hope. Hope was a talented amateur golfer whose notoriety brought in many A-list celebrities to play the pro-am event. This includes Desi Arnez, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra, and the tradition continues with actors like Jimmy Fallon and Samuel L. Jackson taking part in recent times. The tournament is also well known for attracting former presidents to compete in the pro-am, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. Ford, Bush, and then sitting president Clinton famously teed off in 1995 in a group that included Bob Hope and defending champion Scott Hoch.
The tournament dropped the 5 round format to the traditional 72 holes in 2012, along with reducing the number of courses from 4 to 3. Today, those courses are the Pete Dye designed TPC Stadium Course at PGA West, the Jack Nicklaus designed PGA West Nicklaus Tournament course, and the Frank and Lawrence Hughes designed La Quinta Country Club.
Tickets are still available for the American Express, which remains one of the more affordable events on the PGA Tour. Rather than multiple tiers and several luxury options, all tickets for the tournament are general admission and give ticket holders access to Albertsons Vons Pavilions Club 18 on the 18th green, Casamigos Club 17 on the 17th green, and Michelob Ultra Beers Fore Birdies on the 16th green. Tickets for Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday are $35. You can also purchase tickets for the first round on Thursday and Sunday’s final round action in a bundle for $50. Friday admission is $50 and includes admission to the Stevie Nicks concert after the round ends. Saturday admission is also $50 and includes tickets to watch Luke Bryan perform. Youth 12 and under enjoy free admission with a paid adult, and all tickets purchased with an American Express credit card will receive 20% off. There are also 2 complimentary tickets available for Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday for all first responders and Active Duty, Military Reserve, and National Guard members, as well as Military Retirees and Spouses Veterans also qualify for discounted tickets.
Television coverage of the American Express is provided exclusively by the Golf Channel. Coverage Thursday-Friday will be 3-7pm ET, while the final round will be shown Sunday, 6-10pm ET. Streaming coverage is also available through PGA Tour Live on Thursday and Friday, 11:30am-7pm ET of featured groups. Radio commentary is provided by PGA Tour Radio on SiriusXM and online at PGATour.com/liveaudio.