One year ago, Phil Mickelson was on top of the golf world. He had just won the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, becoming the oldest Major winner at age 50. He had also won a number of tournaments on the Champions tour. He had several endorsements, including KPMG and Workday.
Mickelson has always been a golf genius, pulling off unbelievable shots with the best short game around. He also made some of the biggest blunders on the course, especially in the U.S. Open – the only major he has failed to win. He was probably the most popular player on the tour since Arnold Palmer.
Mickelson has always been known as a big spender and tipper. If he hit a spectator when playing in a tournament, he would give them a hundred dollar bill. He pledged his earnings – more than $300,000 – at the New Orleans tour stop for Hurricane Katrina victims.
Mickelson also has a habit of blowing through money. A government audit showed that he lost $40 million gambling from 2010 to 2014.
“Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and unauthorized) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar,” Alan Shipnuck’s unauthorized biography of Mickelson, is likely the most anticipated golf book of the decade. It went on sale May 17 and became an instant best-seller. Golfers want to know all about Phil.
Mickelson spent most of his career as a crowd favorite and now has thrown most of it away because of money and his spite against the PGA Tour. In his interviews with Shipnuck, he trashed the PGA Tour and the commissioner.
Mickelson said that even though the Saudis have a horrible record on human rights, he would consider playing on a tour sponsored by Saudi Arabia because “this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA tour operates.”
The Saudi tour also has guarantee money for the players. The PGA tour had announced that they would not grant releases for players looking to compete in the LIV Golf Invitational sponsored by Saudi Arabia.
So, what happens from here? Will golf fans forgive Phil like they did when Tiger had his marital issues? Shipnuck said, “Phil has put his foot in his mouth plenty of times. He has a long history of creating controversy… If Phil comes back, I think the fans will be ready to accept him and start cheering for him again. Sports fans love a comeback and a redemption story.”
However, when players on the tour were interviewed, they stated that if Phil decides to play LIV events sponsored by Saudi Arabia and defy the PGA commissioner’s refusal to grant release for tour members, his reputation will be shot.
Only time will tell.
Dr. Jean Harris is an LPGA Master Professional and teaches at Pinecrest Golf Club. firstname.lastname@example.org; golfdoctorjean.com