According to his biographer, Phil Mickelson lost an astounding $40 million in gambling between 2010 and 2014. Alan Shipnuck, a former Sports Illustrated golf reporter, has a Mickelson biography coming out later this month called “Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar.” Shipnuck cites records produced when federal auditors performed a “forensic” study of Mickelson’s finances during the time he was entangled in an insider trading case involving legendary professional gambler Billy Walters. Mickelson was not charged with any wrongdoing in the case, but he was compelled to repay nearly $1 million in stock gains as a result of his tip from Walters, who was fined $10 million and sentenced to five years behind bars.
Mickelson was earning approximately $40 million per year during those years of gambling losses, which occurred near the peak of his career. Shipnuck did some back-of-the-envelope math and concluded that the habit may have cost him all or most of his money after his expenses were taken into account. He explained, “Throw in all the other expenses of a big life — like an actual T. Rex skull for a birthday present — and that leaves, what, $10 million? Per the government audit, that’s roughly how much Mickelson averaged in annual gambling losses. (And we don’t know what we don’t know.) In other words, it’s quite possible he was barely breaking even, or maybe even in the red. And Mickelson’s income dropped considerably during his winless years from 2014 to ’17.”
Shipnuck also noted that Mickelson’s split from longtime caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay in 2017 was sparked by disagreements over hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay and that the “real motivation” behind Mickelson’s enthusiasm for the Saudi Golf League was the “funny money” the upstart league was offering golfers to defect from the PGA Tour — possibly due to depleted finances from gambling losses. The Saudi Golf League, which is financed by the Saudi government and led by Greg Norman, has promised players huge sums of money and guaranteed appearance fees for far fewer tournaments than the PGA Tour. However, the PGA Tour has vowed to ban any player who joins the league, making double-dipping extremely costly. Mickelson has been quiet recently and it’s unknown whether he’ll defend his 2021 PGA Championship at the major later this month.