Phil Mickelson's public image has taken a beating over the past year. In June 2022, the six-time major champion announced he would be joining the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series. Mickelson followed the lead of a number of other top golfers who bolted from the PGA Tour to LIV, including Greg Norman and Dustin Johnson.
The previous February, Mickelson blasted both the PGA Tour and LIV Golf in a conversation with a biographer that Mickelson thought was off the record. Mickelson later apologized for the comments and took time away from the game to focus on himself. Several months later, he pledged his allegiance to LIV Golf.
Now, the 53-year-old lefty finds himself embroiled in another controversy far more serious than where his golf loyalties lie. Last week, gambler and entrepreneur Billy Walters claimed in an excerpt for his upcoming book, "Gambler: Secrets from a Life at Risk," that Mickelson bet over $1 billion over the past three decades on baseball, basketball and other sporting events. Additionally, Walters claims that Mickelson's losses totaled around $100 million, well over the $40 million previously reported.
The book excerpt first appeared in Fire Pit Collective, a content partner of Golf Digest. It's published by Simon & Schuster and will come out in late August.
On the surface, those allegations aren't all that surprising. Mickelson has made no secret about his gambling problem, opening up to a Sports Illustrated writer around the same time of his LIV announcement.
Walters doesn't stop there, however. He claims that Mickelson called him in September 2012 during the Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club near Chicago — an event he was participating in — asking to place a $400,000 bet on the U.S. Team, which featured Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson and himself.
Walters claims he was shocked at Mickelson's request and talked him out of it. According to Walters, Mickelson quickly backpedaled and didn't press him any further. He said he has no idea if Mickelson tried to place the bet elsewhere. (The European Team roared back the next day to overtake the Americans, pulling off the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history in what is now known as the Miracle at Medinah).
Walters was convicted of insider trading in 2017, served five years in federal prison and paid a $10 million fine. His betting partnership with Mickelson ended in 2014.
The only public reference Mickelson has made to date about the latest allegations was a social media post he made on Aug. 10. In it, he denied betting on the Ryder Cup, saying he would never undermine the integrity of the game and that he's been open about his gambling addiction.
I never bet on the Ryder Cup. While it is well known that I always enjoy a friendly wager on the course, I would never undermine the integrity of the game.
I have also been very open about my gambling addiction. I have previously conveyed my remorse, took responsibility, have?
— Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) August 10, 2023
Mickelson avoided questions about the explosive excerpt during last week's LIV event at Trump National Bedminster in New Jersey.
"I'm gonna pass today. We'll talk later," was all he would say to reporters.
Walters is generating publicity for his book, obviously. These allegations are coming from a sports bettor convicted of a crime. Still, they are serious enough to cast an even bigger cloud on his reputation, not to mention golf in general. They bring to mind a simple question: Have other golfers placed similar bets on their tournaments?
Mickelson should set the record straight, and the sooner the better. He needs to give his own version of events regarding the alleged Ryder Cup bet. The implication that he considered it is bad enough. If it eventually came out that Mickelson did indeed place a bet on any tournament he played in, it would only make him look worse and serious consequences might follow.
It's Mickelson's call, of course. Addiction of any sort is a lifelong battle, requiring a great deal of willpower and support to face. He has made no secret about his problem, one he is still hopefully receiving help to fight.
Perhaps Mickelson believes a simple denial is enough, that the accusations are baseless and he has no need to comment on them any further. Maybe he is waiting for the storm to die down before addressing the situation in specific detail. Either way, Mickelson's failure to tell his side will only fuel speculation that there's more to the story that has yet to come out. For his sake, let's hope that's not the case.
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