In This Issue
The legend starts 2018 with a dual role at the Coachella Valley’s PGA Tour stop
By Matt McKay
The years have been good to Phil Mickelson.
If Mickelson has his way, 2018 will be another busy, rewarding and successful lap around the sun. And his first major responsibility and/or test of the new year will be to serve as tournament ambassador for the CareerBuilder Challenge while also competing in the tournament.
For the second straight year, Mickelson will serve as ambassador for the Coachella Valley’s PGA Tour stop, scheduled for January 17-21 at PGA West and La Quinta Country Club in La Quinta, California.
No doubt his focus will then turn to major prep as he looks forward to claiming a potential fourth Masters title, a second PGA Championship and a second British Open Championship title. Now 47, Mickelson enters 2018 with 42 career wins, the last coming at the 2013 British Open at Muirfield Golf Links in East Lothian, Scotland.
There’s also the matter of completing the career Grand Slam, should Mickelson finally break through and win the U.S. Open. His U.S. Open record is the stuff of legends, finishing second or tied for second on six occasions. To add texture to the story line, Mickelson famously missed last year’s U.S. Open to attend the high school graduation of his daughter, Amanda. Based on his past experience and performances, the potential for Mickelson to make history at the 2018 U.S. Open this year at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York, will be one of the top story lines heading into the championship.
Before all the excitement of the majors and World Golf Championship season, however, Mickelson will kick off his year—and the California-based portion of the PGA Tour’s winter schedule—at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
New CareerBuilder Challenge tournament director, Pat McCabe, who took over in September, can’t wait for the opportunity to work with Mickelson and reap the benefits of having one of the biggest names in the game as a promotional partner.
How helpful does McCabe expect Mickelson to be?
“Extremely helpful,” he says. “He’s won 42 events on the PGA Tour; he’s got the winningest record in Presidents Cup history; he’s played in, gosh, how many Ryder Cups? He’s a native of Southern California, a World Golf Hall of Famer—the laundry list goes on and on. He’s a fantastic ambassador, philanthropist and a heck of a golfer. So it’s definitely an honor to have him as the tournament ambassador.”
The benefits for the tournament include the use of Mickelson’s likeness in all available advertising mediums. His presence increases the strength of field, and it’s likely Mickelson will play with some top personal and tournament sponsors during tournament week. The tournament’s benefits of the relationship may appear obvious, but McCabe says Mickelson may have his own motivations for his enhanced participation during the CareerBuilder Challenge.
“Phil is certainly one of the most prestigious names in the game, and he wants to give back to the community here in the Coachella Valley,” McCabe notes. “All the greats of the game have had this type of ambassadorship role. You had Arnie, rest in peace to Mr. Palmer, at Bay Hill, then you have Jack at Memorial and Phil fits into that category of legendary names. He wants to have an association with a PGA Tour event that’s near where he grew up. He loves coming down [to the desert], he owns property here and he wants to have his name in lights here in the valley.”
There’s no doubt Mickelson would love to begin the season by winning a tournament with which he shares such a close relationship. A victory would be his third at the event, and he’s finished in the top 10 on two other occasions in 13 total appearances. Mickelson finished tied for 21st in last year’s event despite just having returned from an injury layoff, so a win would not only be satisfying, it would set him off on his 2018 campaign with great momentum. While tournament officials have no vested interest in a particular outcome, there’s no question they’d be as thrilled as Mickelson should he manage to win.
“It’d be fantastic,” McCabe says. “His last win came too long ago, at the 2013 British Open, and certainly he’s only one leg away from the career Grand Slam. But he’s won this event twice, he’s played in it a number of times, even back in the old Bob Hope days and Chrysler days, so he loves coming to the desert. I can’t say that I’m rooting for him necessarily, because we’ve got 155 other guys in the field. But if he wins on Sunday and we’re handing him the first-place check and trophy, it would certainly be a benefit to this golf tournament.”
Not to mention to Mickelson.
Matt McKay is a staff writer with Desert Golf & Tennis