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Biography of Phil Mickelson by Alan Shipnuck book review

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The space between two pines was about as narrow as the entrance to a telephone booth, but Phil Mickelson had decided to go onto the green anyway from 187 yards on the 13th hole of Augusta National on the last round of the 2010 Masters.

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

Mickelson said of his decision: “A good shot is when you succeed. A smart shot is when you don’t have the guts to try it.

Vintage Lefty, and no better summary of how the six-time Major winner behaves, whether on the golf course or elsewhere. This is evident in Alan Shipnuck’s interesting film, “Phil: The Heartbreaking (and Unauthorized) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar”.

The book is due out two days before the start of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa, where Mickelson was set to play as the defending champion, triumphing improbably at Kiawah last year at age 50 to become the oldest overall winner.

But on Friday night, Mickelson withdrew, according to a statement from tournament officials, extending his absence from the PGA Tour which dates from his last appearance in January.

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

Mickelson had discussed a potential alignment with a Saudi-funded league called the LIV Golf Invitational Series and indicated he could ignore human rights abuses if it meant players gaining more weight on the decisions generally made solely by PGA Tour officials.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to US intelligence, ordered the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the prince.

“We know they killed Khashoggi and they have a horrible human rights record,” Mickelson told Shipnuck. “They execute people there because they are gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because it’s a unique opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour works.

Mickelson’s troubling involvement in the Saudi golf league was far more intentional and extensive than simply attaching his name to it, Shipnuck writes.

During an hour-long phone call with Shipnuck, Mickelson, who did not play at this year’s Masters for the first time since 1994, outlined the Saudi league’s plans, revealing he had signed up three other “top players”, whom he declined to name. , and the group paid lawyers to draft the operating agreement.

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

Speculation surrounding the motivation behind Mickelson’s ties to the Saudi league has returned to his well-documented attachment to the game. Shipnuck chronicles 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 affiliation with Walters following an insider trading case. In May 2014, the FBI approached Mickelson at the Memorial Tournament hosted by Jack Nicklaus regarding an investigation into suspicious sales of Clorox stock by Walters and a billionaire investor.

The New York Times reported several weeks later that the FBI and SEC “found no evidence that Mr. Mickelson had traded in Clorox stock.” But the story went on to say that Mickelson wasn’t completely absolved, with the two agencies continuing to investigate a theory that a source inside Dean Foods provided Walters with information about the company’s plans. to create a subsidiary in the context of an initial public offering.

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

In May 2016, Walters was charged with insider trading. The SEC alleged he earned $43 million from illegal tips from a Dean Foods board member who borrowed money from Walters after racking up huge gambling debts. Mickelson, meanwhile, had sold his shares and repaid Walters the money owed for the game.

Shipnuck’s most stunning revelation concerns Mickelson’s gambling losses, which totaled more than $40 million between 2010 and 2014. This information came from a source with direct access to documents gathered when government auditors proceeded to a forensic examination of Mickelson’s finances.

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

Mickelson was never indicted in part, Shipnuck argues, because the Walters case unfolded between two court rulings: the first, issued by New York’s 2nd Circuit in 2014, limited the government’s ability to prosecute insider trading cases; the latter, from the Supreme Court in 2016, ruled that “recipients of inside information could be prosecuted even if they did not know what the original whistleblower had received”.

“It was the greatest escape in a life defined by them,” Shipnuck writes, fittingly encapsulating Mickelson in a biography that is sure to fuel pointed questions for the World Golf Hall of Famer whenever his next event takes place.

Gene Wang is a sports reporter for the Washington Post.

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

Avid ReaderPress/Simon & Schuster. 256 pages. $30

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