After a two-month hiatus, Phil Mickelson returns to the PGA Tour this week for the American Express in La Quinta, California. The tournament previously known as the Bob Hope Classic, Career Builder Challenge and Humana Challenge, among others, will once again be spread out over three different courses in the California desert. (TPC Stadium course at PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta CC)
The pro-am format pairs celebrities with the PGA Tour pros and will have a 54-hole cut instead of the standard 36-hole cut.
Here’s three players to keep an eye on this week:
Phil Mickelson makes his long-awaited return to the course as he looks to rejuvenate the back end of career before he turns 50. Phil hasn’t played since the HSBC Champions in November but according to his social media handles, has been getting into great shape for the 2020 season. Can Lefty find his form? He hasn’t had a top 20 performance since the 2019 Masters, but traditionally plays well during the west coast swing. Mickelson is a two-time winner of the American Express and finished T-2 a year ago, one stroke behind winner Adam Long.
Traditionally scores are low…very low at the Amex, which turns the event into a shootout. The only way to keep up is to make birdies and Abraham Ancer does plenty of that. Ancer, who shined for the International President’s Cup team in December, ranked 22 on tour in total birdies last season and already has 13 sub 70 rounds this season. He finished T-38 at last week’s Sony Open and was T-18 last year at the American Express.
Keep an eye on the reigning Rookie of the Year as a legitimate threat to win this week at PGA West. The ironman on tour, who played in 35 events last season, is back to making birdies in bunches this season. Im is fresh off a T-21 showing at the Sony Open and finished T-12 a year ago at the Amex. He currently ranks 15 in birdie average and 14 in putting which should be an important factor in trying to win a shootout in the desert.