Phil Mickelson's love of gambling is one of his defining characteristics. Now, a new book is reporting just how much that love cost him between 2010 and 2014: $40 million.
An excerpt of the book "Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar," due to be published May 17, breaks down in thorough, agonizing detail just how much money Mickelson lost over that period.
Mickelson's losses were recorded in documents compiled by government auditors doing a forensic analysis of his finances in connection with an insider trading case. Billy Walters, a professional gambler, was accused of insider trading; Mickelson, an associate of Walters', was not charged, but paid back roughly $1 million in gains earned via Walters' tips. Walters, for his part, was sentenced to five years in prison and fined $10 million.
Shipnuck attempted some broad-strokes calculations of how $40 million in losses could have affected Mickelson.
“In those prime earning years, his income was estimated to be just north of $40 million a year,” Shipnuck writes. “That’s an obscene amount of money, but once he paid his taxes (including the California tariffs he publicly railed against), he was left with, what, low-20s? Then he had to cover his plane and mansion(s), plus his agent, caddie, pilots, chef, personal trainer, swing coaches and sundry others.
“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.”
Although there's much yet unrevealed about Mickelson's finances, clues are present in several of the major recent events in Mickelson's life. Shipnuck points out that disputes over hundreds of thousands of dollars in backpay helped contribute to Mickelson's split with longtime caddy Jim "Bones" Mackay — a split that was cordial on the surface, but acrimonious behind the scenes.
More recently, Mickelson aligned himself with Saudi interests looking to start a golf league to rival the PGA Tour. Mickelson's stated intention was to wound the PGA Tour — a stance that resulted in his current absence from tour events — but the fact that the Saudi tour, now known as LIV Golf, will be offering substantial seven-figure paydays at every tournament has relevance, too.
"Based on his comments to me," Shipnuck wrote, "he clearly enjoyed the idea of sticking it to the PGA Tour, but the real motivation was plainly the funny money being offered by the Saudis."
Mickelson has not played on a PGA Tour event since late January, and has not spoken publicly since late February, when his comments to Shipnuck became public and ignited a firestorm of criticism. He is registered to defend his title at the PGA Championship later this month, but has not given an indication of whether he will play.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.