Over the years, plenty of professional athletes have experienced a fairly self-inflicted fall from grace that saw them lose the favor of fans who’d previously rooted for them—a group that certainly includes Phil Mickelson.
The man known as “Lefty” may have spent most of his time on the PGA Tour living in the shadow of Tiger Woods, but he was still a fan favorite who was widely viewed as a pretty likable guy.
However, the tides began to turn when he caught heat for some very questionable comments about the Saudi Arabian government shortly before he defected to LIV Golf and seemingly embraced his role as the villain after making the leap, and some wild revelations about his fairly staggering gambling habits haven’t exactly done wonders to rehabilitate his reputation.
Those claims came courtesy of Billy Walters, a professional sports gambler and longtime associate of Mickelson’s who wasn’t shy about spilling the beans about his former partner’s habits in the book Gambler: Secrets from a Life of Risk, which features a couple of chapters where he details his relationship with Phil and discusses just how bad his gambling addiction was.
In the book, Walters states that Phil “bet more than $1 billion on sports and tried to place a $400,000 wager on the 2012 Ryder Cup in which he participated.” While that first number understandably got a lot of people’s attention, it’s not necessarily a huge shock to anyone who’s kept tabs on Mickelson over the course of his career.
Phil is far from the only athlete with a well-documented love of gambling, as Michael Jordan, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and Wayne Rooney are just a few of the many people who are known for their borderline inability to turn down the chance to put some money on the line to make things a bit more interesting.
It’s worth noting Mickelson has been pretty transparent about an issue he eventually realized was a problem, so while those days may be behind him, they also produced a number of pretty incredible stories—including one involving a wager he made with a fan in the middle of a tournament he was playing in.
Phil Mickelson couldn’t stop himself from gambling with a fan in the gallery during a PGA Tour Event
The tale in question transpired in 2014 at The Barclays, which ultimately saw Hunter Mahan finish atop the field that had gathered for the event at The Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey that year.
While Mickelson was able to make the cut by posting the 71 and 72 that saw him enter the weekend at +1, things fell apart when he headed to the course on Saturday, and by the time he neared the end of his round, he knew he wasn’t going to be making it past the secondary cut that was used to trim down the field even more ahead of the final day of play.
It may not have been an enjoyable 18 holes for Lefty (he shot a 75 when everything was said and done), but that didn’t mean he wasn’t able to have a little bit of fun.
Mickelson’s drive on the 18th hole resulted in his ball ending up in some thick rough next to the fairway, and even though his approach shot was essentially meaningless, he’s managed to dream up a way to make it matter.
Before hitting his second shot, Phil offered a fan in the gallery a chance to win some money by giving them 4-1 odds on him making a birdie on the par-4 if they were willing to put $5 on the line (they agreed to make par a push, while anything higher meant the spectator would cash in).
The fan accepted and Phil took his shot but quickly realized neither a birdie nor par was in the cards, as he admitted defeat by forking over $20 before making his way to the ball (he’d end up finishing with a bogey).
The fact that the PGA Tour didn’t address what transpired even though multiple outlets reported on the story at the time makes you think the organization didn’t have a huge problem with what was probably seen as a fairly lighthearted (and objectively tiny) wager, but it takes on a whole new meaning when placed in the context of Mickelson’s various escapades.
It’s worth noting Phil seems to be a genuinely changed man, as a fan at a LIV Golf event tried to goad him into a $1,000 bet only for Lefty to respond “I’m not a gambling man.”
Of course, there’s no way to know if that’s actually the case in more private settings, but it does appear he’s turned over a new leaf.