‘He’d be gambling in a ditch’: Major champ rips Phil Mickelson over LIV

Ryder Cup rookie Phil Mickelson with U.S. captain Lanny Wadkins during the 1995 Ryder Cup at Oak Hill.

Frank Christian/The PGA of America

With the rise of LIV Golf and his central role in its creation, Phil Mickelson has taken a lot of heat over the past two years. Now even with an armistice and potential agreement in place between the PGA Tour and the PIF, Mickelson is still taking shots from all over the place.

The latest takedown — and one of the most severe we’ve heard yet — comes from major champion and Ryder Cup veteran Lanny Wadkins in an interview with Golfweek.

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“The truth is Phil’s disappointing,” Wadkins told Golfweek. “I mean we all love Phil and watched him play… but to do the stuff he’s done and, you know, cause the problems he’s caused and the friction he’s caused, and the divisiveness in golf he’s caused.”

Then Wadkins ratcheted up the heat, referencing Mickelson’s struggles with gambling, which were revealed to the world in Billy Walters’ book Gambler: Secrets from a Life at Risk.

“If it wasn’t for golf, where would Phil Mickelson be?” Wadkins continued. “You know, he’d be gambling in a ditch somewhere. So, you know, It’s not good. I think he owes more to the game than what he’s done.”

This isn’t the first time that Wadkins, who won the 1977 PGA Championship in a sudden-death playoff at Pebble Beach, has denounced Mickelson publicly over his involvement with LIV Golf.

On a Golf Channel appearance in August with host Eamon Lynch, Wadkins similarly took Mickelson to task.

“I don’t know if there has ever been a more disappointing figure in golf than Phil Mickelson, seeing what’s transpired with him over the last 10-plus years,” Wadkins said on Golf Channel. “He was the beloved figure for a long time. We all marveled at the way he could play. But nothing looks kosher about what he’s doing these days.”

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In addition to his PGA heroics at Pebble, Wadkins played on eight U.S. Ryder Cup teams in his career from 1977-1993, five of which ended in victories for the Americans.

Wadkins then captained the U.S. team at the 1995 Ryder Cup to a narrow defeat at the hands of the Europeans. That happened to be Mickelson’s first Ryder Cup as a player.

That Ryder Cup was played at Oak Hill in upstate New York. In 2025, the Ryder Cup heads back to the Empire State for what is sure to be a boisterous crowd at Bethpage Black.

For a long time it had been speculated that Mickelson, who is beloved by New York golf fans, would earn the captain honors at Bethpage. But in his Golfweek interview, Wadkins said Phil’s decisions over the past two years have likely ended that possibility.

“No question he would have been a captain, probably a two-time captain. He probably would have been the captain next time at Bethpage Black when it comes over here,” Wadkins said. “Instead, it’ll probably be Tiger.”

You can read Wadkins full interview with Golfweek here.

Kevin Cunningham

Kevin Cunningham

Golf.com Editor

As managing producer for GOLF.com, Cunningham edits, writes and publishes stories on GOLF.com, and manages the brand’s e-newsletters, which reach more than 1.4 million subscribers each month. A former two-time intern, he also helps keep GOLF.com humming outside the news-breaking stories and service content provided by our reporters and writers, and works with the tech team in the development of new products and innovative ways to deliver an engaging site to our audience.