Phil Mickelson, a week before he’ll compete in the U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, admitted to having a sports gambling addiction problem in an interview with Sports Illustrated.
Mickelson is playing in this week’s inaugural LIV Invitational Series event in London. The Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Tour has been a source of great controversy, and it made Mickelson’s life difficult when supposed off-the-record comments were published in an excerpt of the unauthorized biography “Phil” by Alan Shipnuck of The Fire Pit Collective.
Gaming Today requested an interview with Shipnuck a few weeks ago to help better understand some of Mickelson’s gambling-related travails over the years. We did not hear back on that request, but we did buy the book.
Mickelson Admits To Gambling Problem
Mickelson’s story serves as a cautionary tale as responsible gambling comes into sharper focus in the burgeoning legal sports betting industry. Not that the average sports bettor can blow through millions of dollars, but Mickelson appeared all too human when speaking about his addiction in the interview with SI.
“My gambling got to a point of being reckless and embarrassing,” he told SI in response to a question about whether his decision to play for lucrative bonuses and purses on the LIV Tour was based on his financial difficulties. “I had to address it. And I’ve been addressing it for a number of years. And for hundreds of hours of therapy. I feel good where I’m at there.”
Mickelson was asked about using gambling during practice rounds as a means to prepare for tournaments.
“On the golf course, it’s creating competition,” he said. “But it’s the anxiety, the other things that come across with gambling off the course and addiction off the course that I really needed to address.’’
Mickelson’s Odds Of Winning The 2022 U.S. Open
Shipnuck’s book provides an inside look at one of golf’s greatest stars, and reveals that “immortals” such as Mickelson and Tiger Woods are flawed human beings like the rest of us. Mickelson had always been a fan favorite on the PGA Tour until his latest dustup related to his comments about playing for a Saudi-backed league and subsequent disappearance.
It will be interesting to see how he plays — and how he’s welcomed back — at the U.S. Open next week after a four-month hiatus from the PGA Tour. Tiger won’t be playing in the event, and the spotlight is sure to burn a little brighter on Mickelson as a result. Here are odds on Mickelson to win the 2022 U.S. Open from sportsbooks across the U.S.:
‘Phil’ Delves Into Mickelson’s Gambling
Shipnuck, a veteran journalist who worked at SI previously, delves deep into Mickelson’s gambling affairs over the years in the unauthorized biography.
In 2017, Billy Walters — regarded by many as the greatest sports bettor of all time — was tied to Mickelson as he was being convicted of securities fraud from insider trading of Dean Foods stock. Mickelson was reportedly urged by Walters to trade in Dean Foods stock, and he ended up with $931,000 in profits in the summer of 2012.
As Shipnuck notes in “Phil,” a forensic examination of Mickelson’s finances was conducted by government auditors at the time. Shipnuck writes, “According to a source with direct access to the documents, Mickelson had gambling losses totaling more than $40 million in the four-year period (2010–14) that was scrutinized.”
Shipnuck also offers several vignettes about Mickelson’s preoccupation with personal NFL bets while he was playing, and not particularly well at times, in tour events. Former PGA Tour star Tom Lehman was paired with Mickelson in the 2000 Presidents Cup. On the front nine, Mickelson was struggling to hold his own in the group pairing against Steve Elkington and Mike Weir. After yet another errant tee shot at the ninth hole, Mickelson disappeared into the woods.
“He walks way back into the trees and is sitting on a stump with his back to everybody and his head down,” Lehman recounted. “I think he’s giving himself a pep talk, so I go over there to try to make him feel better, and he’s got his phone out and he’s checking the football scores.”
Mickelson Gambled (On Himself) During PGA Tour Events
There is a memorable smaller-dollar anecdote in “Phil” involving Mickelson and former CBS golf announcer Gary McCord. Mickelson made bets with McCord during PGA Tour events broadcast by CBS. From the TV tower, McCord flashed odds to caddie Jim Mackay on upcoming putts by Mickelson. Informed of the odds, Mickelson would nod to McCord in the booth if he accepted the wager. McCord immediately made good on bets he lost to Mickelson during tournaments.
“I can’t tell you how many wadded-up twenties I threw out of the tower,” McCord said in the book. “Until the Tour found out about it, and I got word through CBS I was no longer allowed to gamble with Phil while up in the tower.”