Tour Confidential: Phil Mickelson’s gambling losses, PGA Tour-PIF prospects, playoff heat

GOLF’s editors and writers discuss Jay Monahan’s media sit-down, Phil Mickelson’s bombshell gambling allegations and Lilia Vu’s major achievement.

The post Tour Confidential: Phil Mickelson’s gambling losses, PGA Tour-PIF prospects, playoff heat appeared first on Golf.

GOLF’s editors and writers discuss Jay Monahan’s media sit-down, Phil Mickelson’s bombshell gambling allegations and Lilia Vu’s major achievement.

The post Tour Confidential: Phil Mickelson’s gambling losses, PGA Tour-PIF prospects, playoff heat appeared first on Golf.

Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. This week, we’re discussing Jay Monahan’s media sit-down, Phil Mickelson’s bombshell gambling allegations and Lilia Vu’s major achievement.

1. In PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan’s first sit-down interview with reporters since he returned from a leave to address health issues brought on by anxiety (check out our Nick Piastowski’s recap here), he revealed little detail about the status of the Tour’s ongoing negotiations with the Saudi Public Investment Fund other than to say: “We’re hopeful that we’re going to reach an agreement, but ultimately these conversations — we’re going to get to a place where we feel like we have something that we recommend [to the Tour policy board], and if we feel like we’re in that position, then I think you can assume that you think it’s going to get done.” He added: ‘I’m determined and inspired to get there on behalf and for our players and for our fans.” With Jan. 1 looming, do you suspect a deal will get done? 

Zephyr Melton, assistant editor (@zephyrmelton): I do think the deal will get pushed through ultimately. Monahan and Dunne have put all their eggs in one basket, and failure would be an unmitigated disaster. With both sides extremely motivated (although for different reasons), it feels like they’ll make the deal happen.

Jay Monahan

Saudi deal, health and regret: 9 takeaways from Jay Monahan’s private media talk 

By: Nick Piastowski

Jessica Marksbury, senior editor (@Jess_Marksbury): I agree, Zephyr. It seems unfathomable that this would fall apart on the Tour side, given what has already transpired behind closed doors. And now with Tiger Woods in the mix, it seems like whatever is decided in the future will have the backing of the Tour membership. What still seems unclear is whether or not the Justice Department will pursue a block.

Josh Sens, senior writer (@JoshSens): True that, Jessica. And among the things we learned about that initial framework agreement is that the parties involved either knew little to nothing about antitrust issues or opted to simply look past them as they rushed to put an end to the legal battle with a half-baked peace accord. The devil will be in the details, and those details will be looked at closely by regulators. I expect there to be an agreement by Jan. 1. But that agreement will still be a long way from a done deal.

2. Did anything Monahan told reporters, on any topic, surprise you?

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By: Dylan Dethier

Melton: While I have my reservations about some of Monahan’s recent moves, I did admire his candidness about his struggles with anxiety. It’s not always easy to be forthright about such a taboo topic, but Monahan didn’t beat around the bush. Here’s to hoping his mental health is in a better place.

Marksbury: If there’s anything this merger situation has taught us, it’s that there’s a heck of a lot going on behind the scenes that we aren’t privy to. So, in saying that, while there wasn’t anything that Monahan said recently that surprised me, I did think it was interesting when he said the Tour would still be sustainable in the event the PIF deal collapses. I’d love to hear more on that. Sustainable in what way? The current model, or a skeleton version? I imagine there’s a contingent of players out there who may find such an avenue more attractive than the current framework agreement.

Sens: Talk of sustainability even if the PIF deal collapses made me wonder if there’s anything to one of the theories I’ve heard knocked around: that Monahan and Co. are hoping that the deal falls apart under federal review, leaving the Tour to then go seek a partnership with non-Saudi, private equity money. But all of that is getting into the realm of spy-novel-like speculation, in a financial world so opaque to most of us that we’d have more luck gazing with our naked eyes into the depth of a black hole.

3. A new book from famed gambler Billy Walters alleges that Phil Mickelson — with whom Walters had a betting partnership — racked up $100 million in sports-betting losses and even tried to bet $400,000 on a U.S. win at the 2012 Ryder Cup, at which Mickelson competed. (Mickelson said in a statement that he did not bet on that event but did not address whether he tried to bet on it.) Mickelson’s gambling addiction is not news — in the past he has acknowledged that his habit became “reckless and embarrassing” — but Walters’ allegations add more texture to the breadth of Mickelson’s recklessness. What’s your biggest takeaway from Walters’ account?

Phil Mickelson at Medinah in 2012.

Phil Mickelson lost $100 million, tried to bet on Ryder Cup, new book alleges

By: Josh Sens

Melton: The Ryder Cup allegation is crazy! We’ve seen other high-profile athletes black-balled from their sports under similar circumstances, so hearing that Mickelson tried to not only bet on golf, but a competition he was playing in, is jarring. 

Marksbury: Reading about Walters’ and Mickelson’s alleged gambling hijinks was like being transported to a different planet. I can’t even begin to try to relate to or comment on that kind of lifestyle. Obviously, betting on a competitive event you’re participating in is beyond the pale, and I certainly hope Phil’s penchant for gambling never crossed that line. He’s a beloved figure in the game, and he seems to get more and more bulletproof as time goes on. Judging by social media reaction, this latest allegation appears to have only added to his lore for his fans.

Sens: A lot of the social-media criticism of the excerpt I’ve read has focused on the fact that Walters is a convict with an ax to grind and not to be trusted. True about his criminal background and that ax. But those comments ignore how destructive and irrational gambling becomes when it turns into a disease. Mickelson clearly had the illness. Having known many people with that same ailment, and having seen what the disease did to them, I did not find Walters’ account hard to believe at all.

4. Lilia Vu won the AIG Women’s Open by six strokes, dominating the field for her second major title of the season. With the women’s major season now behind us, what performance or story line most sticks with you?

Lilia Vu

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By: Jessica Marksbury

Melton: It’s gotta be Lilia Vu’s entire season. Not long ago, she was on the brink of quitting the game. But after a magical 2023 major season, she’s a two-time major winner and the No. 1-ranked player in the world. An impressive and meteoric rise from Vu this year.

Marksbury: No question, Z. Winning two majors in a year is big-time stuff, to say the least! And now Vu is only the fourth American player to hold the top spot on the Rolex ranking since the ranking debuted in 2006. Bonafide superstar.  

Sens: Agreed. Nothing tops Vu’s season. But I also can’t help thinking of Lydia Ko’s entire 2023. She had such a terrific run in 2022, the cap to a remarkable comeback. And then she starts this year with a new caddie and a new swing. I know she’s not the first in golf to make big changes right when things appear to be going great, but Ko’s entire 2023 was a head-scratcher in that way.

5. Lucas Glover won the FedEx St. Jude Classic, the first of three legs of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Just 50 players advanced from the St. Jude to next week’s BMW Championship, from which 30 more players will qualify for the Tour Championship. Has the new smaller-field playoff format for 2023 made the playoff more interesting, or have fewer players in the mix diluted the drama? 

Cam Davis

Why Sunday’s final round at the FedEx St. Jude is so meaningful, even for the players not in contention

By: Jessica Marksbury

Marksbury: The primary drama-driver this weekend was who would make the top-50 cut, and not because that was the BMW Championship field number, but more so because of the ramifications the FedEx Cup ranking has for next year’s eight signature events, which the top 50 will be exempt into. That was fun to track, even though there wasn’t a ton of movement on either side. I still prefer a bigger field with a cut, at least for the first playoff event. 

Sens: I prefer the smaller field. The playoffs already suffer from a sense of manufactured excitement, with nothing much at stake other than money. If it’s going to be a free roll, at least restrict it to a smaller number of players who are performing at their best.

6. In Memphis, the players and caddies suffered through real-feel temperatures that were north of 110 degrees. The excessive heat sidelined one caddie, clouded Jordan Spieth’s decision-making and had many asking whether in such sweltering conditions players should be permitted to wear shorts. Should they?

Melton: They absolutely should. Tradition should be thrown out the window when player safety is at stake. When temps get that high, tournament organizers should be doing everything in their power to keep players safe from heat-related illness. 

Marksbury: I used to be pro-pants at all costs. But now that I’ve been desensitized by practice-round shorts, they don’t bother me as much. You have my blessing for tournament rounds, too! That said, I’m not sure how much it will help. Caddies can wear shorts, and they were still suffering. It’s just tough to combat temps and humidity that severe.  

Sens: When it comes to golf dress codes, I pretty much have a don’t ask, don’t care policy. You want to wear shorts, knock yourself out. That’s between you and your fashion god and your sponsor. Besides, as climate change continues to accelerate, whether to show a little leg is going to be the least of the questions. There will be increasing uncertainty about the viability of certain venues at certain times of the year.

The post Tour Confidential: Phil Mickelson’s gambling losses, PGA Tour-PIF prospects, playoff heat appeared first on Golf.