Phil Mickelson’s reputation as a gambler precedes him, but the extent of that gambling — and his losses — far exceeded public knowledge, according to reporting in a forthcoming Mickelson biography by golf writer Alan Shipnuck.
In 2016, the Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that Mickelson made nearly seven-figures on a stock tip from professional gambler Billy Walters, the proceeds of which Mickelson used to pay off a gambling debt to Walters. At the time, the extent of Mickelson’s debts were unknown, but reporting in the biography — attributed to a source with access to the SEC’s documents — revealed that in one four-year stretch, from 2010-14, Mickelson’s losses totaled more than $40 million, or roughly the equivalent of his estimated annual income during that period.
This new information came to light Thursday in an excerpt from the book published on Firepitcollective.com. Mickelson’s representatives did not immediately respond to GOLF.com’s request for comment.
Over the years, Mickelson’s proclivity for “action” — on the course and off — has been well publicized. During his appearances in The Match, his flair for six-figure bets with playing partners drew significant social-media reaction, while stories of his private wagers and eye-popping sports bets have long lived in golf folklore. In 2001, Mickelson famously cashed in on a 22-1 futures bet in which he correctly picked the Baltimore Ravens to win Super Bowl XXXV. After the prediction netted him a cool $440,000, Mickelson was asked what he saw in the Ravens. “A Super Bowl champion,” he said. “The best defense in the history of the game, and a running offense that runs the clock out and doesn’t turn the ball over.”
Still, those stories remained safely within the realm of Mickelson’s folksy charm. The information reported in Shipnuck’s book would appear to cast that behavior in a more troubling light. According to the excerpt, Mickelson’s financial woes stemming from his gambling were a factor in his eventual split from longtime caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay.
“The statements made the divorce sound amicable, but that was nonsense,” Shipnuck wrote. “Bones had fired Phil at the ’17 Memorial, over a series of simmering grievances (laid out in detail in the book), including hundreds of thousands of dollars in overdue back pay.”
In January, a different excerpt from Shipnuck’s biography made headlines: Mickelson’s disparaging comments about the PGA Tour and the financiers of its new rivals, the Saudi government. After intense blowback from the remarks, Mickelson announced his plan to take a leave of absence from professional golf. He hasn’t competed or spoken publicly since, though he did enter the field at the PGA Championship and submitted a request to the PGA Tour to compete in LIV Golf’s first event in June.
“I used words I sincerely regret that do not reflect my true feelings or intentions,” Mickelson said at the time. “It was reckless, I offended people, and I am deeply sorry for my choice of words. I’m beyond disappointed and will make every effort to self-reflect and learn from this.”