Lefty the host with the most
Mickelson rolls out TV persona for The American Express Charity Challenge
January 21, 2021
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
- January 21, 2021
Phil Mickelson hosts The American Express Charity Challenge
First his former caddie, Jim Mackay, got into the foot-soldier game.
Now Phil Mickelson has.
Mickelson, tournament host for this week’s The American Express in Palm Desert, California, wore a mask and a microphone to emcee The American Express Charity Challenge at PGA West on Wednesday. Playing alternate shot, Paul Casey, with singer Jake Owen, and Tony Finau, with retired soccer star Landon Donovan, raised $1 million for Coachella Valley charities.
Casey and Owen, a former competitive junior golfer, easily won the match. Mickelson got off the most one-liners.
“I’m going to watch and talk smack,” he said after the first-tee introductions, “which is what I do better than play right now, so let’s have at it.”
Most of his needle came at his own expense.
On the first tee he handed Owen a $100 bill, eliciting laughter. The move was a reference to Owen jokingly complaining about the quality of the golf in The Match, an earlier made-for-TV event between Mickelson and Tiger Woods, and Mickelson giving him his money back.
Owen, however, played well, despite making nothing on the greens. Donovan struggled with his wedges. Mickelson spent the two and a half hours telling stories, trying to coach Donovan, explaining shots as they came up, reading greens, and taking more light jabs mostly at himself.
“I’m shorter and crooked, and I still hit driver,” the 50-year-old Hall of Famer said by way of urging Finau to hit driver as much as possible. Later, Mickelson asked with mock seriousness, “Does that get tiring playing from the fairway all the time?”
Mickelson is not switching careers to TV like his ex-caddie Mackay; instead, he said earlier Wednesday, he plans to play the PGA TOUR’s West Coast swing. He will then evaluate whether to continue competing on TOUR, where he has 44 titles, or move over to the 50-and-over PGA TOUR Champions, the circuit where he already has two victories in two career starts.
Finau and Mickelson drive the green for charity at The American Express Charity Challenge
The host was brought into Wednesday’s action with two driving contests, both against Finau, a closest-to-the-pin contest (Casey), and a short-game contest (Casey) – all for the two teams’ chosen charities. He did not win any of them. He was admittedly stiff, and also was hooked up to wires, wearing a mask, and admitted Finau is untouchable with the driver, anyway.
“Ten years ago, I was at the Callaway test center,” Mickelson said as he kept things moving along, “and you and your brother Gipper were there, and you were hitting nasty bombs there, and you broke the golf ball. You broke it. Literally broke it. It had a 212 mph threshold. I’ve never done – that unless I bladed it, like a wedge or something.”
At the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park last August, Mickelson spent more than an hour in the CBS booth with Nick Faldo and Jim Nantz. He exchanged zingers with Faldo while the veteran Nantz kept everything running smoothly. But for the Charity Challenge, which aired on Golf Channel and PGA TOUR LIVE, Mickelson had to work mostly solo.
At the 14th hole, when asked why he wasn’t giving even more advice to amateurs Donovan and Owen, Mickelson said, “I mean it’s a little difficult because when you see the skill level with the wedge of Landon, the beautiful one he hit on 10, the horrific one he hit on 13, you really don’t know where to go with it. Oh, you heard that, Landon? My bad.”
At the 15th hole, Owen said he’d been drinking more coffee lately, which naturally was followed by Mickelson recommending his specially blended Coffee for Wellness.
“When you drink it,” he said, “you won’t have any crash later on.”
Donovan, newer to the game, was sketchy on the Rules and kept asking when to concede a putt.
“You’d still watch it,” Mickelson said of Casey’s upcoming short birdie putt at the 15th hole, “but 98.7 percent of the time he’s going to make that. You’re nice and classy, so I know you want to give it. I want to watch it.” (Casey made it.)
Mickelson razzed Donovan for hitting his tee shot in the water at the island par-3 17th hole (Alcatraz), but then seemed to remember how many thousands of balls are drowned there.
“Sorry,” he said. “It’s late in the day, I’m getting a little slap-happy.”
Team Finau/Donovan raised $340,000 for Youth Development & Education in the Coachella Valley while Team Casey/Owen raised $660,000 for Health & Wellness.