No wonder Phil Mickelson has been hiding out in Dagobah — or is it Elba? Golf’s second-biggest name, who has taken a self-imposed hiatus since his comments on working with a Saudi-backed golf league went viral for all the wrong reasons, is getting the unauthorized biography treatment from Alan Shipnuck, the former golf reporter who broke the Saudi story.
He released an excerpt from his upcoming book, “Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar,” on Thursday in which he says Lefty lost $40 million over four years gambling, and after expenses could’ve been in the red. Shipnuck goes on to detail a spat with a caddie over back pay and more-or-less insinuate that Mickelson’s financial mismanagement was the reason he wanted to link up with the Saudi golf league.
Here’s a snippet:
“In those prime earning years, his income was estimated to be just north of $40 million a year. 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.”
I’ve always thought of Phil as a real life Shooter McGavin. He seems like the kind of guy who’d ask a PR person to fetch him a Diet Pepsi. I never understood the fascination with him. People adore him because he’s unorthodox and eventually overcame a history of gagging in majors? How New Yorkers fell in love with him at Bethpage all those years ago I’ll never know. My birthday usually falls on one of the days of the Masters, and one of my favorite pastimes is watching Mickelson collapse, a tradition unlike any other, till he finally won.
What I can’t shake, though, is this might make him a more endearing and sympathetic figure to his fans and supporters within the sport, like Lethal Weapon 2 henchman Gary Player. Fans will look for any excuse to forgive their favorite player, and everyone can relate to a tough run at the blackjack tables. Obviously, that’s putting it lightly because $10 million a year in losses is excessive, but throw in that this came out because Mickelson was undergoing a “forensic” analysis, which sounds like an audit on steroids, and there’s a way to rationalize him into at least a beloved villain.
I don’t think that’s the case in the court of public opinion because my co-worker Grace McDermott and I have been writing about Lefty’s heel turn from the jump, so we know that the government was looking into Phil’s records because he was linked to an insider trading scam that led to a $10 million fine and prison time for famed professional gambler Billy Walters.
Is the difference between a professional gambler and degenerate basically one wins money and the other is Adam Sandler from Uncut Gems? Speaking of Sandler, I don’t know what Happy Gilmore scene would be funnier to parody with Mickelson: Shooter/Phil complaining to the tour commissioner about Happy/Alan Shupnick, or Shooter/Phil meeting up with a shady lunatic/Saudi to fix a match/start a golf league. You know he had no intention of going to Sizzler with those “scary motherfuckers.”
Mickelson averted any wrongdoing in the Walters case, but the optics over his involvement are even worse now that it sounds like he enjoyed an occasional wager or 30. Caping for the younger players to get a bigger slice of the earnings also appears disingenuous to the nth degree. Did Mickelson ever care about the every man, or was he using their plight as a means to pay off a couple bookies over a sure thing gone south? Count me among the camp who would’ve thought Jake Paul’s concern for his sport was more likely to be bullshit than Phil’s alleged championing.
The question I want Shipnuck to answer is this: Is Mickelson’s reaction the same when he catches a bad beat as it is when he shanks a drive into the woods? You know what I’m talking about. He squints for a second or two too long to see if it’s really as bad as he thought, and then once he realizes he’s hitting his next shot off of Frankenstein’s fat foot, his head drops to the ground like a guy who just got dumped.
Shipnuck’s mention that Mickelson bought himself a T. Rex skull for his birthday was my favorite morsel. If we’ve learned anything about celebrities who buy dinosaur bones to decorate their mansions, it’s that Lefty flirting with the Saudis was the equivalent of Nicolas Cage doing B action flicks with Netflix to pay off his extravagant debt. Granted Netflix isn’t the Saudis — they don’t kill journalists, they just kill aging action movie stars’ careers.
Maybe Christopher McDonald, the guy who played Shooter, can give Mickelson some acting lessons if he’s considering a career change.
Alright, that’s my tight five on Phil. Check back for the full routine after the book drops later this month.