When it was announced on Monday that Phil Mickelson will not be competing in the 2022 Masters, golf fans were astonished, if not outraged.
They weren’t supposed to be there.
The last two months have seen Mickelson in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. His comments to Golf Digest on the PGA Tour’s “obnoxious greed” were just the beginning, coming from a World Golf Hall of Famer who has earned nearly $95 million from a tour that has helped him earn an estimated $700 million in endorsements.
Mickelson did not rest on his laurels. Despite saying the Saudis were “scary mother (bleep)” because of their history of human rights atrocities, he expressed curiosity in joining the Saudi-backed LIV Golf International Series in an interview with longtime golf journalist Alan Shipnuck that featured on the Fire Pit Collective’s website. He even acknowledged to seeking the help of three other elite players to pay for the upstart tour’s operating agreement to be written by solicitors.
Another Lefty lowlight, possibly his career’s biggest flop.
Never mind that Mickelson has three major championships to his credit, including his long-awaited first in 2004; that he has grown into one of the most popular players of his generation; and that he made history at the PGA Championship less than a year ago when he became the oldest player to win a major championship at the age of 50.
With a club in his hand, Mickelson accomplished these accomplishments. The six-time major winner finds himself into trouble when he starts talking.
Mickelson did not withdraw as frequently from the Masters. According to various accounts, Augusta National officials either urged him not to come or actively encouraged him not to. Mickelson driving down Magnolia Lane with the circus after him is the last thing they want.
No word from the PGA Tour on whether Mickelson has been suspended.
Furthermore, while the PGA Tour will never confirm it, Mickelson has been suspended from the Tour, according to those same sources, for his “obnoxious greed” statements and admitting he helped a rival tour acquire traction. Why would he miss the Players Championship, the richest golf tournament in the United States?
When asked if Mickelson had been suspended at the Players, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monaghan skirted around the issue. The Tour has a long-standing tradition of not disclosing player discipline.
Because the Masters is administered by the powers-that-be at Augusta National, rather than the PGA Tour, it has the authority to accept — or not invite – whomever it wishes.
But it’s not so much because of Mickelson’s recent remarks that he’s in this predicament. It concerns his behavior throughout the past two decades.
Mickelson is the topic of two future publications, the first of which is a biography by Shipnuck due out in May. The other book, possibly more illuminating, is co-written by Billy Walters, a longtime friend and famed gambler who was sentenced to five years in prison in 2017 for gaining more than $43 million from Dean Foods trades using inside information.
Mickelson profited more than $931,000 trading Dean Foods stocks in 2012 at Walters’ recommendation. Mickelson was named a “relief defendant” by the SEC, which means the agency believes he gained from insider trading in Dean Foods even if he didn’t do it personally. Without admitting or disputing the claims, Mickelson agreed to hand over his trading earnings, plus interest of more than $100,000.
Walters is co-writing his book with Armen Keteyian, a well-known investigative journalist. The book, which is set to be released in December, isn’t about Mickelson explicitly, but it will undoubtedly include details about their connection. Mickelson owes Walters over $2 million in gambling losses in the past.
It’s not simply Mickelson’s incendiary comments that have caused practically all of his big endorsers to end or put their partnerships on hold, as in Callaway’s case.
They know what’s going to happen in these novels, and it’s not going to be beautiful.
“The past 10 years I have felt the pressure and stress slowly hurting me at a deeper level,” Mickelson wrote in a public statement last month, admitting to some hard periods. I’m well aware that I haven’t been my best, and I really need some time away to focus on the people I care about most and concentrate on becoming the guy I want to be.”
Is Mickelson’s gambling past the only thing that will be documented? Mickelson has never hidden his passion for gambling, frequently informing reporters who he is betting on in the next Super Bowl. His advisers finally persuaded him to quit discussing his bets in public.
The lack of support Mickelson has had from his teammates has been noticeable over the last two months. Only Rory McIlroy has gone to his defense, and that was only after McIlroy called Mickelson’s comments “naive, selfish, egotistical, and ignorant.”
Will Phil Mickelson’s legacy be this?
Mickelson has long been regarded as one of professional golf’s most divisive figures. While most players have rolled their eyes at his antics, fans love him for his go-for-broke manner, willingness to sign autographs, his ever-present smile, and his continual “thumbs up” motion on the course—a massive borrow of Arnold Palmer’s signature move. He’d been dubbed “FIGJAM” for a long time, with the last five words standing for “I’m good; just ask me.”
It’s a pity that it’s come to this. Nobody enjoys seeing legends exposed for their flaws. Mickelson has done innumerable good things and raised a lot of money for charity over his career, but that isn’t what is remembered these days.
Mickelson indicated two years ago that he would join the ever-growing roster of world-class players moving to South Florida (the latest being world No. 2 Collin Morikawa, who is moving to Jupiter), but it’s uncertain whether that will happen. Mickelson’s family still lives in California, and many speculate whether he would ever relocate to Jupiter Island.
We already know he won’t be competing in the Masters. The next question is whether Mickelson will defend his PGA Championship at Southern Hills in May. That is no longer a given.
“What will Phil do next?” isn’t just a marketing phrase anymore; it’s a genuine concern.
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