Did Phil Mickelson entertain multimillion-dollar offers from the Saudis because he’s suffered massive gambling losses?
Fire Pit Collective’s Alan Shipnuck, author of the forthcoming Mickelson biography, “Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar,” reveals in an excerpt that the six-time major champion may have had financial difficulties due to eight-figure gambling losses.
Shipnuck said Mickelson suffered gambling losses totaling more than $40 million between 2010 and 2014 based on financial records that were disclosed to government auditors as part of an insider trading case (the Dean Foods investigation) in which notorious professional gambler Billy Walters was found guilty on all 10 counts against him, fined $10 million and spent five years in prison while Mickelson was ordered to pay back trading profits totaling $931,738 plus interest of $105,292, but otherwise skated free on a technicality.
“In those prime earning years, Mickelson’s income was estimated to be just north of $40 million a year,” Shipnuck wrote. “That’s an obscene amount of money, but once he paid his taxes (including the California tariffs he publicly railed against), he was left with, what, low-20s? Then he had to cover his plane and mansion(s), plus his agent, caddie, pilots, chef, personal trainer, swing coaches and sundry others.
“Throw in all the other expenses of a big life — like an actual T. Rex skull for a birthday present — and that leaves, what, $10 million? Per the government audit, that’s roughly how much Mickelson averaged in annual gambling losses. (And we don’t know what we don’t know.) In other words, it’s quite possible he was barely breaking even, or maybe even in the red. And Mickelson’s income dropped considerably during his winless years from 2014 to ’17.”
Shipnuck also delves into the breakup of Phil and Bones, his caddie of 25 years, and says that Bones fired Phil after the 2017 Memorial and that money was “a big factor” in their split.
Phil Mickelson gets direction from his caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay before teeing off on the 9th hole during the second round of the Dean & Deluca Invitational at Colonial Country Club. (Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports)
Shipnuck, who previously published a book excerpt that included Mickelson’s unvarnished thoughts on the Saudi breakaway league that led to sponsors abandoning ship and him stepping away from the game, also addresses why he waited three months to publish his original story and hypothesizes why Mickelson chose to make such comments to him.
“He could have called any reporter to come clean about the Saudis, but he chose the guy who was writing his biography. In his statement, he used the word “reckless” to describe his actions, and maybe that’s the point,” Shipnuck wrote. “He is an adrenaline junkie, and there must have been some kind of thrill in sharing with me his deepest, darkest secrets, knowing what was at stake. Or maybe it was pure calculation: By not setting any ground rules for our conversation, he was able to register his true feelings for posterity but could later give himself deniability that he didn’t mean for them to go public? His actions remain baffling, even (especially!) to me.”
Of the controversy surrounding Mickelson, who missed the Masters and could miss his title defense of the PGA Championship, Shipnuck concludes: “There is something Shakespearean about Mickelson’s arc. He had it all, or so it seemed, but greed and vanity and recklessness (and perhaps desperation) cost him everything, at least in the short term. But he will come back, because he always has, through myriad controversies and heartbreaks.”
Shipnuck’s unauthorized biography of Mickelson debuts May 17, the Tuesday of the PGA Championship.