Phil Mickelson biography by Alan Shipnuck book review

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The space between two pine trees was about as narrow as the entrance to a phone booth, but Phil Mickelson had decided to go for the green from 187 yards on Augusta National’s 13th hole in the final round of the 2010 Masters.

He grabbed a 6 iron, passed the ball through the hole and over trouble at Rae’s Creek and landed it about five feet from the hole, where Mickelson birdied the most iconic shot of his career – and one of the most attended in golf. history – on his way to winning his third green jacket.

Mickelson famously said of his decision: “A great shot is when you get it done. A smart move is if you don’t have the guts to try.”

Vintage Lefty, and no better summary of how the six-time big winner behaves, on the golf course or anywhere else. That’s evident in Alan Shipnuck’s very captivating “Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar.”

The book will be out two days before the start of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa, where Mickelson was expected to play as the reigning champion.

But late Friday, Mickelson withdrew, according to a statement from tournament officials, extending his absence from the PGA Tour dating back to his last appearance in January.

Mickelson has not played in an officially licensed round of competition since early February in the Saudi International of the Asian Tour at the Royal Greens Country Club in Saudi Arabia. That same month, the comments Mickelson made to Shipnuck in November 2021 surfaced and caused a stir.

Discussing a potential alignment with a Saudi Arabia-funded league called the LIV Golf Invitational Series, Mickelson said he could overlook human rights violations if it meant giving players more leverage over decisions typically only made by PGA Tour officials. be taken.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has ordered the murder of columnist Jamal Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the prince, to the Washington Post, according to US intelligence.

“We know they killed Khashoggi and have a terrible human rights record,” Mickelson told Shipnuck. “They execute people there because they are gay. Knowing all this, why should I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape the way the PGA Tour works.”

Mickelson’s troubling involvement in the Saudi golf competition was much more intentional and elaborate than just attaching his name to it, Shipnuck writes.

In an hour-long phone call with Shipnuck, Mickelson, who has not played in the Masters this year for the first time since 1994, outlined plans for the Saudi league and revealed that he had engaged three other “top players” whom he declined to name. and the group paid attorneys to write the operating agreement.

How a Saudi Challenge Changed the PGA Tour and Phil Mickelson’s Legacy

Speculation about the motivation behind Mickelson’s ties to the Saudi league reverted to his well-documented attachment to gambling. Shipnuck describes Mickelson’s association with bookmakers, most notably Billy Walters. The two became partners, pooling money and splitting the winnings when their bets hit.

Mickelson made headlines for his ties to Walters as a result of an insider trading case. In May 2014, the FBI approached Mickelson during the Memorial Tournament hosted by Jack Nicklaus regarding an investigation into suspicious Clorox stock sales by Walters and a billionaire investor.

The New York Times reported several weeks later that the FBI and SEC “find no evidence that Mr. Mickelson traded Clorox stock.” But the story went on that Mickelson was not fully exonerated, with both agencies continuing to investigate a theory that a source within Dean Foods had provided Walters with information about the company’s plans to spin off a subsidiary in an IPO.

Shares of Dean Foods rose more than 40 percent in August 2012, the day after the company announced the news.

In May 2016, Walters was charged with insider trading. The SEC claimed he made $43 million from illegal tips from a Dean Foods board member who borrowed from Walters after he accumulated huge gambling debts. Mickelson, meanwhile, had sold his shares and paid back Walter’s money he got from gambling.

Shipnuck’s most stunning revelation concerns Mickelson’s gambling losses, which totaled more than $40 million between 2010 and ’14. This information came from a source with direct access to documents collected when government auditors conducted a forensic examination of Mickelson’s finances.

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Walters was due to stand trial in March 2017. Mickelson was not called to testify; his attorney had told both the prosecution and the defense that his client would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights. A jury found Walters guilty on all 10 charges and he was sentenced to five years in a minimum security facility in Pensacola, Florida.

Mickelson was never charged in part, Shipnuck argues, because Walters’ case was set between two court rulings: The first, by New York’s 2nd Circuit in 2014, limited the government’s ability to handle insider trading cases. to prosecute; the latter, of the Supreme Court in 2016, ruled that “recipients of inside information can be prosecuted even if they did not know what the original tipper was receiving.”

“This was the greatest breakout in a lifetime defined by them,” Shipnuck writes, matching Mickelson in a biography that is sure to lead to pointed questions for the World Golf Hall of Famer whenever his next event is.

Gene Wang is a sports reporter for The Washington Post.

The roaring (and unauthorized) biography of golf’s most colorful superstar

Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster. 256pp. $30

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