At the LIV event in New Jersey last week, Phil Mickelson didn’t say how he was feeling about the forthcoming book from his former gambling partner Billy Walters in which Walters alleges that Mickelson, who built his brand around risk-taking, incurred a nine-figure sports-gambling debt and tried to bet 400 large on a U.S. win at the 2012 Ryder Cup.
Mickelson’s gambling problem is not revelatory; in a 2022 interview with Sports Illustrated, the six-time major winner acknowledged his “reckless” addiction and said that he had addressed it with “hundreds of hours of therapy.” But the notion that Mickelson had endeavored to bet on an event in which he was competing was news. Mickelson didn’t deny the allegation. On Thursday, he tweeted that he did not bet on the matches but did not say whether he had attempted to do so.
Mickelson and his peppy partner, Keegan Bradley, were the stars of the U.S. team that week at Medinah Country Club, near Chicago. On Friday, the first day of the matches, they knocked off Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, 4 and 3, in morning foursomes before taking down Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, 2 and 1, in the afternoon fourball session. In the first session on Saturday, they kicked into full-buzzsaw mode, obliterating Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, 7 and 6. No U.S. duo was hotter or more effective at galvanizing the American crowds. It seemed a given that U.S. captain Davis Love III would send Mickelson and Bradley back out for one more session Saturday afternoon, but when the fourball pairings were announced there was no sign of them.
Mickelson didn’t speak to the press after the morning session, but Bradley did. “I would much rather sit and have a guy who didn’t play go play because I want everyone to be ready for singles,” Bradley said. “You know, I’m putting so much emotion into my rounds that it’s probably a good thing that I’ll be rested up for tomorrow’s singles.”
With Mickelson and Bradley on the bench, the U.S. and Europe split the afternoon session, but the U.S. still had a commanding 10-6 lead heading into singles.
According to Walters, Mickelson felt “supremely confident” that the U.S. would win at Medinah, so much so that at some point that week — Walters didn’t say when — Mickelson called Walters to place a $400,000 bet on a U.S. triumph. Walters was gobsmacked. From the book:
I could not believe what I was hearing.
“Have you lost your f—ing mind?” I told him. “Don’t you remember what happened to Pete Rose?” The former Cincinnati Reds manager was banned from baseball for betting on his own team. “You’re seen as a modern-day Arnold Palmer,” I added. “You’d risk all that for this? I want no part of it.’’
“Alright, alright,” he replied.
I have no idea whether Phil placed the bet elsewhere. Hopefully, he came to his senses…