PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — In the wake of his controversial comments about a proposed Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway golf league and his perceived problems with the PGA Tour, Phil Mickelson will no longer serve as host of The American Express PGA Tour event in La Quinta, California.
The PGA Tour confirmed to The Desert Sun on Saturday that Mickelson, who served as tournament host since 2020, will not return to that role in 2023. In addition, the Mickelson Foundation, formed in 2019 specifically to be the charitable arm of the tournament, will no longer be part of the event, the tour confirmed. Tour officials declined comment on any other matters over Mickelson’s departure.
Mickelson, a Hall of Fame golfer and winner of 45 PGA Tour events and six major championships, has been a fixture in the desert and at the tournament. Mickelson, a 19-time tournament participant since his desert debut in 1993, has won twice in 2002 and 2004. He also has had a home in La Quinta in recent years.
Mickelson is among several players who have expressed interest in the rival league, backed by Saudi Arabia money and headed by former player Greg Norman. But comments made by Mickelson to writer Alan Shipnuck for an upcoming book about his reasons for dealing with the Saudi tour, sparked a firestorm of backlash in the last week.
“They’re scary (bleeps) to get involved with,” Mickelson said to Shipnuck, who is writing a biography on Mickelson due out this spring. “We know they killed [Washington Post reporter and U.S. resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”
Apology followed by more fallout
After several days of silence following the quotes, Mickelson issued an apology for his comments while reiterating his belief the structure of the PGA Tour needs to change. Mickelson also said he believed that the comments were off the record.
“My actions throughout this process have always been with the best interest of golf, my peers, sponsors, and fans,” Mickelson said in his statement earlier this week. “I used words I sincerely regret that do not reflect my true feelings or intentions. It was reckless, I offended people, and I am deeply sorry for my choice of words.”
Since Mickelson’s apology, long-time sponsors of the 51-year-old Mickelson such as KPMG and Workday have severed tied with the World Golf Hall of Famer. In addition, equipment manufacturer Callaway paused its relationship with Mickelson on Friday. Mickelson said in his apology statement that he would take an unspecified time away from the game to focus on himself, his family and the people around him.
Mickelson’s departure from the Coachella Valley tournament does not endanger the long-term status of The American Express, which was played for the 63rd time last month at three courses in La Quinta.
The PGA Tour has a direct contract with American Express, which announced at the tournament last month an extension of its title sponsor deal through 2028. The tour will need to identify a new host organization to serve as the charitable arm of the event, which has distributed $63 million to desert charities since first being played in 1960.
While the controversial comments may have hastened Mickelson’s departure from the tournament, there were indications at last month’s event that Mickelson was already backing away from the tournament. Mickelson didn’t hold a pre-tournament news conference early in the week, as he had the previous two years, and he did not hand out the trophy to winner Hudson Swafford after the final round.
La Quinta Mayor Linda Evans, who is also a board member of the Mickelson Foundation, said she had no information about the tournament changes. She added she knows that American Express and the PGA Tour are committed to the La Quinta event no matter what organization is operating the event, and that her focus is on trying to raise funds for local charities.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Mickelson out as host of PGA Tour event after Saudi Arabia controversy