Phil Mickelson admits to ‘reckless and embarrassing’ gambling habit

Phil Mickelson admits to ‘reckless and embarrassing’ gambling habit, but PGA great says his defection to Saudi-backed tour for ‘$200million’ was NOT caused by any financial issues

  • Phil Mickelson admitted to battling a ‘reckless and embarrassing’ gambling habit
  • The PGA Tour legend said he has improved, although he still bets on the course 
  • His biographer revealed in May that Mickelson lost $40million from 2010 to 2014
  • This week, he joined the Saudi-packed LIV Golf Series for a reported $200million
  • He denied having financial issues and says his defection is unrelated to gambling

Phil Mickelson has admitted to battling a ‘reckless and embarrassing’ gambling habit, but says his controversial decision to join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series for a reported $200 million has nothing to do with lost wagers.

The PGA legend’s biographer, Alan Shipnuck, revealed last month that Mickelson gambled away as much as $40 million between 2010 and 2014.

This week, Mickelson was asked about his finances in an interview with Sports Illustrated after joining the LIV tour, saying that his family doesn’t need the money, while admitting to a number of ‘poor decisions’ in his past. 

‘My gambling got to a point of being reckless and embarrassing,’ Mickelson told SI. ‘I had to address it. And I’ve been addressing it for a number of years. And for hundreds of hours of therapy. I feel good where I’m at there. My family and I are and have been financially secure for some time.’

As Mickelson explained, quitting gambling was difficult, in part, because he had been doing it for so long.

‘Gambling has been part of my life ever since I can remember,’ he continued. ‘But about a decade ago is when I would say it became reckless. It’s embarrassing. I don’t like that people know. The fact is I’ve been dealing with it for some time. 

‘[My wife] Amy has been very supportive of it and with me and the process. We’re at a place after many years where I feel comfortable with where that is. It isn’t a threat to me or my financial security. It was just a number of poor decisions.’

Mickelson was asked directly if the still gambles on golf, which he didn’t deny.

‘On the golf course, it’s creating competition,’ Mickelson said. ‘But it’s the anxiety, the other things that come across with gambling off the course and addiction off the course that I really needed to address.’

John Hawkins, a longtime golf reporter for outlets such as Golf World and Golf Digest, told Shipnuck that he once witnessed Mickelson using his phone to make ’50 bets’ on college basketball in a matter of ’20 minutes.’

‘It was like he was showing off,’ Hawkins told Shipnuck.

Mickelson entrenched himself at the center of golf’s biggest controversy this week by announcing his decision to join the LIV Golf Series in defiance of PGA commissioner Jay Monahan, who did not grant tour members authorization to play on a rival circuit.

Mickelson, two-time major winner Dustin Johnson and former European Ryder Cup team members such as Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood are all prepared to play in the LIV series’ inaugural event this weekend in London – the first of eight tournaments offering a total of $255 million in prize money.

But unlike the others, Mickelson says he has not resigned from the PGA Tour, and says he expects to be permitted to play in golf majors by the respective governing bodies.

‘I’ve had many conversations with the organizations that run the majors,’ Mickelson said. ‘And I do want to keep those conversations private. But I am looking forward to playing the U.S. Open and I’ll be there. I’m under the understanding that I’m able to play.

‘I have not resigned my membership. I worked really hard to earn that lifetime membership. And I’m hopeful that I’ll have the ability to play wherever I want, where it’s the PGA Tour, LIV or wherever else I want.’

Mickelson’s defection to the LIV tour follows his reported comments in February, where Shipnick quoted him admitting that Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations weren’t enough to dissuade him from joining the LIV Golf Series.

‘They’re scary mother f***ers to get involved with,’ Mickelson told Shipnuck. ‘We know they killed [Washington Post reporter and US resident Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it?

‘Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates,’ Mickelson continued. ‘[The PGA Tour has] been able to get by with manipulative, coercive, strong-arm tactics because we, the players, had no recourse. As nice a guy as [PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan] comes across as, unless you have leverage, he won’t do what’s right. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage. I’m not sure I even want [the SGL] to succeed, but just the idea of it is allowing us to get things done with the [PGA] Tour.’

Mickelson has not changed his mind about joining the tour, but he has changed his tune about Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations.

‘I certainly do not condone human rights violations,’ he told SI. ‘And addressing what happened to Jamal Khashoggi is awful.

‘But I have seen the good that game of golf has done throughout history. And I really believe that LIV can be good for the game of golf as well.’

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