PGA golfer Phil Mickelson none too pleased with Detroit newspaper’s rehashing of 2007 incident
By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer
Phil Mickelson’s diet these days appears to consist of coffee and low-hanging fruit.
And it’s turning into quite a feast.
The early summer months on the PGA Tour should be on the sleepy side as players recharge from the U.S. Open during a three-week window before the British Open, and it gets even more crowded for the Olympians.
The Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit came roaring to life long before Cam Davis of Australia won a five-hole playoff.
It started the day Mickelson arrived to play the tournament for the first time.
The Detroit News ran a story from a 2007 racketeering trial in which a mob-connected bookie testified he never paid Mickelson $500,000 in bets that were placed well before Lefty ever won a major. Now he has six majors, most recently the PGA Championship at age 50.
The trial transcript didn’t appear in court files until 2018.
The News said the tangential Mickelson mention — he was not part of the investigation or accused of any wrongdoing — was discovered only a month ago. That was a few weeks after the Rocket Mortgage Classic announced that Mickelson would be playing.
What irritated Mickelson, no stranger to scrutiny, was the timing of a story he felt was meant to embarrass him. He felt it was “opportunistic.” Click bait. And he had a right to feel that way.
But the ultimate pin-seeker went on an attack like never before against the media, a popular target in today’s climate. He rallied his supporters in interviews and with a string of tweets blasting lack of accountability and divisiveness.
Much like having a five-shot lead on the back nine at Kiawah Island, he couldn’t lose.
But it was no less bizarre.
The story was local in nature, behind a paywall for days, and likely wouldn’t have had any traction until Mickelson and one of his attorneys gave it a fresh set of tires. Mickelson linked to sports betting is as newsworthy as dog bites man.
In the process, he dragged the tournament into the drama by threatening not to return, praising the fans and the city the next day and offering to return if 50,000 people signed a petition and pledged a random act of kindness to someone in the community. (As of Tuesday, the petition had around 12,000 signatures).
For whatever reason, Phil had his fill.
He has been subjected to critical coverage nearly as long as he has been on tour, but he has also been the subject of glowing coverage for just as long that goes beyond his six majors.
According to the trial testimony, Mickelson was cheated out of $500,000. According to his Twitter feed, he felt even more cheated by the newspaper.
“I got stiffed out of 500k 20 years ago? I don’t give a $&@ about that,” he huffed in one of his replies on Twitter. “These writers hurt the community when they alienate those who are bringing everyone together.”
Mickelson — the biggest name at Detroit Golf Club — was little more than a name in the trial proceedings. He was the victim.