Phil Mickelson, upset about gambling story, initially said he won't return to Rocket Mortgage Classic

·5 min read

Phil Mickelson’s stop at the Rocket Mortgage Classic this week will likely be his last, and only visit to the Motor City.

Mickelson, who is playing in the PGA Tour’s annual stop in Detroit this week for the first time, is still upset about a Detroit News story that ran earlier this week connecting him to a years old gambling story.

Because of that, he said Thursday, Mickelson doesn’t see himself playing in the Rocket Mortgage Classic ever again.

“I don’t see me coming back,” Mickelson said, via WXYZ’s Brad Galli. “Not that I don’t love the people here and they haven’t been great, but not with that type of thing happening.”

It’s important to note that, other than the Rocket Mortgage Classic taking place in the same city where The Detroit News is based, the two are not connected.

News article links Mickelson to old gambling story

A story in The Detroit News on Tuesday connected Mickelson to a former “mob-connected” Detroit area bookie. Though his attorney said that nothing in the story was inaccurate, both he and Mickelson were upset the organization chose to publish it now.

Mickelson was mentioned in previously unreleased court records from a 2007 racketeering trial of crime leader Jack Giacalone. “Dandy” Don DeSeranno, one of the “biggest gamblers in Detroit history,” testified in that trial.

During a cross-examination of DeSerrano, he brought up a large bet he took with Mickelson in the early 2000s. Mickelson was never paid out, and lost $500,000.

"Did you cheat — do you know Phil Mickelson, the golfer?" Giacalone's lawyer, Neil Fink, asked.

"Who?" DeSeranno said.

"Phil Mickelson," Fink said, "the golfer."

"Yes," DeSeranno said.

"Lefty?" the lawyer said, using Mickelson's nickname.

"Yes," DeSeranno said.

“Did you cheat him out of $500,000?” Fink said.

“I wouldn’t say I cheated him,” DeSeranno said.

"What would you call it?" Fink said. "What did you do?"

“I couldn’t pay him," DeSeranno said.

“You booked his action, correct?” Fink said.

“Yes,” DeSeranno said.

Mickelson, an avid gambler, did nothing wrong and was not the subject of that investigation.

“The bottom line is Phil wasn't paid,” Mickelson’s lawyer, Glenn Cohen said. “The guy who took the bet turned out to be a crook and Phil didn't know it. But it's irrelevant. Whether this guy was the worst human being alive ... what is the newsworthiness of this article now? There isn't any."

Mickelson still upset about ‘selfish’ story

Mickelson — who posted a 3-under 69 in the opening round at Detroit Golf Club — insisted he didn’t care about the story, as it happened years prior.

He still, though, was very upset — and even mentioned the author directly.

“I feel that Rob Snell made an article this week that was very opportunistic and selfish and irresponsible. … When you have a divisive voice like that, you can’t bring people together,” Mickelson said. “And that needs to change, because the people here are great. But when that’s your voice, it’s hard for me or somebody to come in and bring other people and bring other entities involved to help out, because you’re constantly being torn down as opposed to being brought together and built up.”

Mickelson, 51, is fresh off his historic win at the PGA Championship earlier this year, something he said actually made him want to play in Detroit this week even though it would make things tough on his schedule.

“It was a lot for me to play here, because I had won the PGA [Championship], and then I prepared for the U.S. Open, put a lot of time and effort into the U.S. Open,” he said. “I played last week at [the Travelers Championship], and I’m going to be heading over to the British [Open] soon.

“So to play here, I wouldn’t normally do it. I usually take a couple of weeks off after the U.S. Open, but I really liked what Rocket Mortgage has really tried to do with this community and get involved. I felt like as the PGA champion, I would be able to bring some value and maybe help the tournament out.”

Mickelson changes tune after making cut

Mickelson, though, changed his tune after his second round — where he just narrowly made it through to the weekend on the cutline.

“People were awesome, and they were so nice,” he said, via The Detroit News’ Tony Paul. “So, I would say this. I don’t want to be divisive. I don’t like the way that I felt with the reporter, and the people here were so nice that I’ll make a deal with them.”

His deal is something out of Ellen DeGeneres’ playbook.

If a group of Detroit locals all complete a random act of kindness, he said, then “I’m in.”

“I just think that this tournament has sponsors … that are trying to come together and do something good for the community,” he said. “If the members of the community will come together, I’d love to be back. But what I won’t tolerate is that type of divisive attitude from that particular reporter. It’s just not helpful to anybody in any way.”

Phil Mickelson at the 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic
Phil Mickelson prepares to putt on the 16th green during the first round of the 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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