Walter Mencken 2:37 p.m., March 1
Mickelson gambling stories make rounds again
Callaway found he was a gambler, but had no outstanding debts
For years, the sports press has talked about golfer Phil Mickelson's gambling proclivities. Now that he has shot off his mouth about the excessive taxes on his $40 million+plus annual income, those stories -- some of which may be exaggerated or flatly untrue -- are surfacing again. Larry Dorman, former senior vice president and head of press relations for Carlsbad's Callaway Golf, now writes a column for PGATour.com. Buried in his column Tuesday was this item: Callaway was going to sign Mickelson as an endorser in 2004. But first it wanted to check out the gambling rumors. It put an investigator on the case. "Mickelson did like to gamble at the time, but he had no outstanding debts and his betting patterns -- a stat that Vegas casinos keep -- had him even to slightly up," wrote Dorman.
Back in 2002, Sports Illustrated wrote, "During practice rounds Mickelson has been known to make spontaneous wagers....that are overheard by the gallery." One time he offered golfer Mike Weir 25 to 1 odds that that another golfer would hole a bunker shot. Mickelson won $500 and was eventually reprimanded by the PGA tour. Said Sports Illustrated in 2002, "While it's true that Mickelson rarely plays friendly golf without some kind of bet involved, it seems safe to conclude that his gambling is no more outrageous or threatening to his substantial nest egg than that of his fellow Tour pros."
Mickelson and a syndicate are said to have put $20,000 down on the 2000 Super Bowl and won a reported $560,000. He also allegedly cleaned up betting on the Arizona Diamondbacks to beat the New York Yankees in a World Series upset.
In 2004, Tom Boswell of the Washington wrote a scathing piece about Mickelson's sudden switch of sponsors shortly after he had won the Masters, his first major championship. Just before the Ryder Cup, according to Boswell (and others who have reported the story), Mickelson signed with Callaway, leaving Titleist, with whose clubs he had won the Masters. He only played the Callaway clubs once before the Ryder Cup, did poorly, and was benched. America lost. Writers speculated that he signed with Callaway because he had a big gambling debt. This may be a canard, of course.