If Phil Mickelson were Hamlet in Shakespeare’s tragedy, his soliloquy, “To be or not to be,” might be changed to this question: To LIV (join the Saudi Golf League) or not to LIV.
On May 17 a copy of “Phil — the Rip-Roaring (and unauthorized) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar” by Alan Shipnuck was delivered. I devoured it entirely the same day. Here is my reaction to this unauthorized biography that sparked all the talk regarding Mickelson, Saudi Arabia and its gulf/golf money and the future legacy of one of golf’s elite PGA Hall of Fame members.
First, I have an affinity for reading golf-oriented material since writing about golf has been my passion at the Times for the last 44 years. What absorbed my attention throughout the book’s 19 chapters were the colorful anecdotes from Mickelson’s PGA professional golfers, non-golfing friends and contemporaries.
Too numerous to cite, this story is typical. It involves his basketball friend Charles Barkley and flying, “Phil was always trying to talk me into flying with him,” says Barkley. “No ‘expletive’ way dude. I thought his total confidence was funny. He was like, ‘C’ mon, man I’m a good pilot.’ No, you’re a great golfer. There’s a difference. I’m a firm believer you only get good at one thing in life. You don’t see any United Airlines pilots on the PGA Tour, do you? I rest my case. But Phil argued that point all day long.”
Second, the next observation that was culled from reading this book was the complexity of Mickelson. He had Tigeresque talent for golf, an indefatigable work ethic, a precocious learner, a risk-taker, a raconteur, a philanthropist and a lover of gamesmanship/gambling. That latter attraction for money leads me into the final reaction to the book. Why is Mickleson interested in the Saudi tour and its lucre? Was it to get back at the PGA Tour for alleged or perceived slights, to use the Saudi Tour as leverage for revenge, a pure money grab, or a guaranteed way to pay off his massive gambling debts?
Third, to answer that gambling question the book has some but not all the answers. For example, in 2001, Mickelson cashed a $560,000 Super Bowl ticket when he put $20,000 on the Baltimore Ravens (28-1) in the pre-season to win the championship. From 2010-14, Mickelson had gambling losses of more than $40 million; According to Shipnuck, he was involved with unsavory bookies “Dandy Dan” DeSerrano, a Detroit lackey who was an alleged associate of the national Mafia organization La Cosa Nostra and Bryan Zuriff, who had alleged connections to the Russian Mafia.
He also was involved with some insider trading in Dean Foods stock (he purchased 200,240 shares at a cost of $2.46 million) which could have landed in him prison as it did for gambling partner Billy Walters. He eventually paid back the $931,738 plus $105,292 interest in gains amassed from the inside trading. Walters served time and his five-year prison sentence was commuted by Donald Trump in the waning hours of his presidency.
Finally, if you want to read a book about Mickelson that is riveting with its scores of fascinating yarns, whether they are true or apocryphal, this book will keep you reading well into the night. Mickelson came through the 250-page expose’ with plenty of saintly and satanic qualities — which ultimately define us all.
The Saudi Golf League (SGL) has the money ($620 billion in its Public Investment Fund) to back the eight golf tournaments in 2022. The first one is scheduled June 9-11 at the Centurion Club in London and the final one is scheduled Oct. 28-30 at Trump National Doral in Miami. Each of the first seven tournaments has a $20 million purse and a finite field of 48 players (12 teams of four) with the winner getting $4 million. Compare that to last month’s PGA where the purse was $12 million and Justin Thomas earned a mere $2.7 million.
The reason the Saudi tour is so controversial is that Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist, was assassinated by a 15-man hit squad inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on Oct. 2, 2018. He was ambushed, strangled and cut into pieces according to Turkish investigators. According to Shipnuck’s book, that incident and the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi nationals is why many pro golfers including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas do not want anything to do with this new pro league led by its Commissioner, Greg Norman.
Daryl Schomer, College of St. Benedict’s women’s golf coach and Wapicada member, captured medalist honors at the MGA’s Players’ and Mid-Players’ championship on May 17 at the demanding Golden Eagle Golf located in Fifty Lakes. Schomer shot 72 and that superb score vaulted him into the field at the MGA Mid-Players Championship (June 13-15) at Royal Golf Club located in Lake Elmo and the MGA Players’ Championship (June 20-22) at the Burl Oaks Golf Club in Minnestrista.
To secure one’s first ace can be an exhilarating experience. On May 16, Tom Kuhn, retired Sartell media specialist, aced the par three 4th at Blackberry Ridge GC. Witnessing the event was playing partner John Ross. As Kuhn said, “the ball landed six feet from the cup and dropped in after the second bounce. What a great feeling!”
Speaking of Blackberry, during a recent round the greens and fairways were the in the best shape I’ve ever played for this Sartell layout. The green speed rivaled Wapicada’s! If a reader has never experienced that thrill of making an ace, make it happen this year. How? Play more par three holes. My next column will be a review of a course, “The Gravel Pit” located in Brainerd, which has 13 par threes and playing that number of short holes consecutively could increase your chances of snaring your first ace. The course opened April 20 and has already recorded five aces.