You expect people in the desert to talk about how five of the top players in the world are at The American Express golf event in La Quinta this week. It’s the surprise that people show about the field that is curious.
Anyone truly shocked that The American Express has that many top golfers in the field this week, including 17 of the top 50, simply hasn’t been paying attention to the tournament over the last few years. The field has slowly improved from a time in the mid- to late-2000s when the event struggled to get any of the top 50 players in the world rankings.
But why now? Why such a surge of top players playing in La Quinta this week?
The answer is a combination of circumstances that have made the desert’s PGA Tour event more appealing than 10 or 15 years ago.
The designated schedule
The third week of the calendar year has not always been a kind week for The American Express. But the third week seems strong now because the PGA Tour has designated 17 tournaments as must-play events for top players interested in Player Impact Program bonus money. Some of the top players have said their schedule for the West Coast will include five of the seven events, including three designated events in Hawaii, Scottsdale and Los Angeles. Two non-designated events that are getting the most love are The American Express and the Farmers Insurance event in San Diego. Less love goes to the Sony Open and likely the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
For many of the players, the difference in the tournament these days is the sponsorship of American Express, which came to the tournament before the 2020 event and is signed on to sponsorship through 2028.
American Express prides itself on high-end experiences for its card holders in both sports and entertainment, and that is true of the La Quinta golf tournament. From the changes in the concert series in recent years to small things like tables and seating on the driving range for amateurs in a Wednesday pro-am, American Express is leaving an imprint on the tournament. According to a player back in the tournament for the first time since 2017, it’s all noticeable.
“I was here seven years ago (for the first of two appearances),” said world No. 6 Xander Schauffele “Not to bag on anyone, but I think American Express does an incredible job, if you look at the builds (of grandstands and hospitality tents) and everything. Obviously the better the tournament, the better the pros typically show up….