Golf: Biographer says Phil Mickelson had US$40 million in gambling losses in 4 years

Phil Mickelson became the oldest Major winner in golf history when he won the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in 2021. PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP, REUTERS) - US federal auditors probing Phil Mickelson's role in an insider trading case found he had gambling losses of more than US$40 million (S$55.4 million) from 2010 to 2014, according to an excerpt from an unauthorised biography of the American golfer.

Writer Alan Shipnuck posted the excerpt from the biography on the Firepit Collective website on Thursday (May 5).

The book Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography Of Golf's Most Colorful Superstar is due to be released on May 17 - just two days before the start of the PGA Championship, where Mickelson is the defending champion.

Mickelson became the oldest Major winner in golf history when he won the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island last year at the age of 50, but it is not yet known if he will defend the title at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

He has not played since an uproar in February followed Shipnuck's publication of the player's explosive remarks concerning the Saudi-backed LIV golf tour spearheaded by Greg Norman. He issued a lengthy mea culpa and retreated from the public eye, skipping the Masters.

The six-time Major champion had called the Saudi partners "scary," citing the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But he said he was willing to work with them if the breakaway tour provided "leverage" in efforts to force the PGA Tour to alter policies that Mickelson said rob players of deserved money-making opportunities.

Shipnuck connected Mickelson's constant pursuit of money to his gambling issues, writing: "Mickelson's love of gambling is fundamental to understanding his style of play as a golfer. It might also explain the Saudi seduction.

"Based on his comments to me, he clearly enjoyed the idea of sticking it to the PGA Tour, but the real motivation was plainly the funny money being offered by the Saudis. Why was Phil so eager to cash in, at the risk of alienating so many fans and endorsement partners?"

Mickelson was a relief defendant in a 2016 criminal insider trading case that sent gambler Billy Walters to prison.

The golfer was not charged, but repaid almost US$1 million made in the deal.

In the excerpt posted on Thursday, Shipnuck, citing a source with direct access to the documents, writes that government auditors working the case investigated Mickelson's finances over four years from 2010 to 2014.

"In those prime earning years, Mickelson's income was estimated to be just north of US$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, US$10 million? Per the government audit, that's roughly how much Mickelson averaged in annual gambling losses."

Mickelson's management company confirmed in April that he had sought a release from the PGA Tour to play in the first event of the LIV tour, the LIV Golf Invitational near London from June 9-11.

But in a statement Steve Loy, co-president of Sportfive management, stressed the player had not yet confirmed his participation.

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