Phil Mickelson is the same guy on the golf course as off, meaning that he gambles no matter where he is. Wherever Phil lays his bets is his home.
Deadspin recently obtained a voicemail that seems to indicate that Mickelson is very at home on the links, trying to stir up some golf and gambling at municipal courses in his boyhood home of San Diego.
“Hey, it’s Phil,” he says. “Hey, Sunday morning, we’re on. Yeah, it’s you and I, we’re partnered against Charley and one of his partners. Where would you like to play? We could play Rancho Santa Fe if you want, or we could play Coronado early and even some place else after if we play early enough. But you and I are partnered, wanted to see if you wanted to play Coronado and take these guys for some serious cash. So let me know. Talk to you later. Bye.”
The recording comes from a July 2015 call and has been passed around for two years in golfing circles. According to two sources familiar with the tape’s origins, the “Charley” mentioned as Mickelson’s mark is Charley Hoffman, a PGA Tour veteran and another product of the Southern California public courses. Hoffman did not reply to Deadspin’s requests for comment, but he’s confessed in past interviews that he melds golf and gambling when playing non-competitive rounds. “For me,” Hoffman told the Boston Globe in 2007, “sometimes it’s a way just to keep my interest up.”
Nobody in modern golf has been linked with gambling more than Phil Mickelson, though.
“He’s notorious for never shying away from a good money match,” Golf Digest wrote about him in 2015. “It’s all part of Phil’s charm.”
For his part, the guy in the voicemail comes off as charming. A darker assessment of the gaming habits of Mickelson, the second-biggest money winner in the history of the PGA, was put forth last week in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, during the trial of Billy Walters, a Las Vegas gambler and longtime pal of the golf superstar. Walters stands charged with various fraud felonies, including conspiracy to commit securities fraud and something called “fraud by wire, radio or television.” Prosecutors alleged that Mickelson had made a $1.95 million payment to Walters in September 2012 to cover a debt “related to sports gambling.”
Mickelson was never charged with any criminal counts in the case, but investigators linked his betting with his involvement in Walters’ alleged insider trading schemes. Last year, Mickelson paid the Securities and Exchange Commission $1 million in what was described as a refund of insider trading profits from deals with Walters. The Wall Street Journal, while reporting in 2016 on Mickelson’s relationship with Walters, uncovered old records from Las Vegas casinos showing that between October 2000 and June 2003, he “lost nearly $2.5 million” from table games there.
Mickelson was ruled out as a witness in the Walters case when prosecutors were told he would invoke the Fifth Amendment if compelled to testify. Mickelson was asked to comment on the courtroom allegations during a press gaggle after Friday’s round in the Houston Open. He smiled slyly and said only, “I don’t know what else to add.”
The folks responsible for providing the Mickelson voicemail to Deadspin requested anonymity. Mickelson doesn’t like it when golfing folks tell gambling tales, however. He got pissed when Australian ingenu Ryan Ruffels boasted about having won $5,000 off Mickelson during a round of golf last year during which the PGA veteran reportedly advised the teenager to keep his amateur status and play college golf. Ruffels ended up ignoring Mickelson’s counsel and turning professional. (Had he gone the other way, Ruffels would have found there’s lots of wagering in the university ranks, too: A 2012 NCAA study on the gambling habits of male athletes found that college golfers were more than twice as likely to be involved in sports betting than any other college sportsmen.)
When the Masters teed off today, Vegas oddsmakers had Mickelson listed as a +2200 pick to get his sixth major championship. That means a $100 bet will pay $2200 if Mickelson wins. As this story’s being posted, Hoffman (+12500) was atop the leaderboard and Mickelson was tied for fourth. So there’s a shot that come Sunday, they could be playing together again for some serious cash.