Did Phil Sell Out Golf, USA Over Gambling Debt?

The last 48 hours I’ve been barraged by emailers and media friends gossiping about the personal life of Phil and Amy Mickelson. I’m trying to steer clear of anything involving cancer-stricken Amy, but I did look closer at all the Mickelson gambling rumors that have circulated the past decade or so.

Phil Mickelson Benched At The 2004 Ryder Cup

(Mickelson’s Callaway also paid John Daly’s $1.7M gambling debt)

By studying all that’s been credibly written during that time about Mickelson’s propensity to play the tables and bet NFL, some dot-connecting should give serious pause to many of Phil’s new-found fans. (And those lovable amnesiacs in your life.)

On Sept. 18, 2004, Tom Boswell of the WASHINGTON POST wrote a scathing piece about Mickelson’s bizarre and ill-fated decision to switch from Titleist clubs, which he’d just played to his first major championship win at The Masters, to Callaway clubs only one week before the 2004 Ryder Cup. A Ryder Cup in which Mickelson performed poorly, signaling an embarrassingly lopsided loss to the Europeans.

Phil Mickelson took cash over country. Lefty rolled the dice. It may prove the worst gamble of his risk-taking career.

Of course, with about $80 million of Callaway Golf’s money under his pillow, maybe Phil will sleep like a baby.

When the Ryder Cup resumes Saturday morning, Mickelson, perhaps the best golfer in the world, will be on the bench for the American team, kicked out of the lineup in shame by disgusted captain Hal Sutton.

At sundown, after the worst day in the history of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, Sutton was asked if Mickelson’s switch in equipment from Titleist to Callaway just two weeks ago might have contributed to the two stunning defeats that Mickelson and Tiger Woods suffered at the hands of two European pairings. Sutton mulled the idea.

“We’ll all want answers to that. But the most important person that’s going to have to wonder about that is going to be Phil Mickelson.

“It’s not going to cause us any grief in the morning because he’s going to be cheering instead of playing.” 

Just before Mickelson’s club switch and his subsequent, disastrous Ryder Cup, USA TODAY, via GOLFWEEK, reported that Lefty still had 16 months left on his contract with Titleist, worth more than $4 million a year.

The quick decision to dump Titleist for Callaway also came at a time when Mickelson was playing the best golf of his life. He had finally broken through at Augusta National to win his first major, then came within a combined five shots of winning the other three majors. More:

Golfweek cited unidentified sources as saying Mickelson and his agent, Steve Loy of Gaylord Sports Management, asked Titleist to renegotiate the deal after Mickelson won the Masters. But Titleist refused, and discussions followed that enabled Mickelson to get out of the deal.

Two weeks later Mickelson was playing the most prestigious team golf competition in the world, the Ryder Cup, with clubs he’d tried out for a single day at Callaway’s SoCal headquarters in Carlsbad, CA.

That’s almost as strange as Mickelson wanting to suddenly renegotiate a contract with a company that had stuck with him through lean times - with only 16 months left on the deal

So why on earth did Lefty need the $80M from Callaway so quickly that he would end up embarrassing himself (and his country) at the Ryder Cup?

Previous to Mickelson’s abrupt equipment change, there’d been plenty of rumors about his enthusiasm for gambling in Vegas and betting NFL. Read more…