Mickelson

#AskAlan, Mickelson Edition

As Phil steps away from the game, I answer all of your questions about his incendiary quotes and the story-behind-the-story

By Alan Shipnuck

Have you heard from Phil? @GeoffShac

He sent me a text on the morning the excerpt dropped. He was less than thrilled. Just as in the statement he released on Tuesday afternoon, Mickelson made a half-hearted attempt at revisionist history, trying to say our talk had been a private conversation, but I shut that down real quick. He knew I was working on a book about him and asked to speak, saying he wanted to discuss media rights and his grievances with the PGA Tour, both of which inevitably lead back to Saudi Arabia. If the subject of a biography phones the author, the content of that conversation is always going to inform the book, unless it is expressly agreed otherwise. Not once in our texts or when we got on the phone did Mickelson request to go off-the-record and I never consented to it; if he had asked, I would have pushed back hard, as this was obviously material I wanted for the book.  Mickelson simply called me up and opened a vein. To claim now that the comments were off-the-record is false and duplicitous. 

I completely understand that Phil needs to be perceived as the smartest guy in the room; just look at his long-time tour nickname FIGJAM. (Editor’s note: F*ck I’m Good Just Ask Me.) How could he ever think that saying such things about the Saudis (all true) when he’s in business with them wouldn’t come back to bite him? @rhallisey

Even knowing he came armed with an agenda, I was amazed by Mickelson’s bluntness when we spoke. My take is that he wanted his true feelings on record but, as always, was working both sides of the street. If he wound up signing with the SGL, at least the quotes would serve as a signal to golf fans that he knows the Saudis are bad actors and it’s strictly a business decision. If he remained in the fold with the PGA Tour, he would have made it clear he did so only after extracting many of the concessions he wanted, thus fulfilling the need, as you note, to feel like he had outsmarted everyone else. Mickelson loved The Queen’s Gambit—“It fits his obsessive personality,” his wife, Amy, told me—but it turns out he is not quite the master strategist that he fancies himself. 

Alan, a question on the truth and background of your piece: You had this for 3 months, you love the Tour … did you push it out for love? Was it orchestrated (or did you discuss) with Jay Monahan? The repercussions are amazing, the background must be fascinating as well. @RealTurtleBR

My relationship with the Tour is complicated, and love does not accurately capture it. I would never let them dictate terms to me about anything, least of all a book I am writing. Commissioner Monahan was as surprised as everyone else when this story posted. I have gone on record plenty of times with my disdain for the Saudis’ sportswashing, but that doesn’t mean I’m here to do the Tour’s bidding. My fealty (to use a new favorite word) is to the readers, and to the truth. Mickelson is at the center of an important development in the golf world, and I had the opportunity to advance the story with real reporting. The chips will fall where they may, but that is not my concern. 

Respectfully, why did you hold Phil’s explosive comments until now? @JedDeMuesy

Everything pertaining to the Saudi Golf League has been hazy and uncertain and I wanted to see how it was going to play out. Five days ago, a top player agent told me the Saudis had been waiting to make an official announcement until they had signed their 20th player…and that they had just reached 20 and a splashy kickoff event was going to be held the week of the Players Championship in mid-March. (I respect the pettiness.) With things at a boil, it felt like it was the right time to make known Mickelson’s true feelings. It took some convincing with Simon & Schuster, as publishers prefer for excerpts to come out around the time a book is released, not three months in advance. But what Phil told me was simply too important to sit on.

What does it feel like to hit send on a tweet that changes the history of the game of golf? @td445544

That seems rather grandiose. I did know this was going to explode, and I would say the moment you describe felt… fraught. A lot of people were going to be affected, including some scary mofos. I definitely skipped breakfast that morning. I have empathy for Mickelson, and there is a lot to unpack in his statement where he discusses the stress of having led a big, controversial life for so long. In the wake of the excerpt, folks have asked if my book is a “hit piece” or if I’m out to “bury” Phil. No to both of those. It’s a fair, balanced look at his life and career. I would say it is written with affection, because I have always enjoyed covering Phil, despite our occasional dust-ups. There are tons of outrageous tales and laugh-out-loud moments. But he has been involved in a lot of messiness, and that’s all in the book too. 

Did you see this blowing up as big as it did, and do you wish you had released more, less, or something different of what Phil said on the topic? @MichaelSmyth

I think it was the right amount. I must say I am a little surprised at the intensity of the backlash. Wasn’t it obvious all along that Mickelson was playing the Saudis against the PGA Tour? I guess it hits differently when you say the quiet parts out loud. It’s a reminder that Mickelson has always been polarizing and remains so. And that anything involving Saudi Arabia—which supplied 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers—remains highly emotional.

I mentioned the Larry David fatwa episode to you a few days ago, but I fear it might turn real because you saved the PGA Tour and sunk the SGL with the timing of the Phil excerpt. Is a lifetime achievement award from the PGA Tour really worth looking over your shoulder forever? @Elpulpo8888

I welcome the fatwa jokes… as long as they are jokes!

Would the Saudi League have succeeded if it hadn’t been associated with the Saudis? Let’s say someone like Softbank had bankrolled a league with the same format and same stars but without the moral outrage of the Saudi component. Would that league have made it? @luke_peacock

What you are describing is the Premiere Golf League; the folks behind that are mostly European interests. They didn’t have the money to steal the top stars from the PGA Tour, so they approached the Saudis to help fund it; the Saudis simply stole their idea and made a go of it alone. The PGL had a cool schedule lined up all around the world. I think it would have been a great product, and if it could have been free of the taint of Saudi money, it would have well-received as a fresh take on professional golf. 

Would you consider what the Tour is doing monopolistic in squashing a would-be competitor? They’ve already gobbled up mini-tours and forced new touring professionals to come through their development tours…@hubtub18

Sure it’s monopolistic, but it’s also smart business if they can get away with it. The current arrangement is certainly good for the Tour. Given how much money they’re raking in, it’s pretty good for the players too, though clearly a few of them have their grievances. The biggest losers are the fans. A robust competitor, whether it be the PGL or SGL, would force the Tour to innovate and improve a rather stale product. In the absence of that, it will just be more of the same.

I think sponsors helped break the Saudi deals with the Tour: Play here or we ain’t paying. Hot or cold take? @nolachgz

That’s always been an underlying issue, and marketplace jitters were baked into the bloated Saudi offers, as players were sure to lose some endorsements. Even before the excerpt dropped I heard from a wired-in source that Workday has chosen not to renew Mickelson’s deal when it expires just before the Masters, and since then a top player agent has seconded that; we shall see. A lot of factors go into this kind of decision, but squeamishness about the Saudis would have to be a factor. A source at Callaway—where Mickelson has a lifetime contract—says KPMG’s top executives had been in touch to inquire how Callaway was going to move forward and that might affect KPMG’s decision; on Tuesday, KPMG announced it was ending its long relationship with Mickelson. (In his statement, Phil notes that his corporate relationships may or may not all be on “pause,” which is a clever euphemism.)  So a lot of wheels are turning, which was always inevitable if and when players get in bed with the Saudis.

Do PGA Tour players have Greg Norman to thank for making their tour better? #AskAlan@jjkilleentcu

Yes, and Phil too. Some $100 million more is flowing to the players this year and the threat of the SGL is the big reason why, and Norman and Mickelson have been the driving forces. Who knows what the Tour’s new NFT platform will look like, but it’s safe to say Phil was instrumental in making that happen.

What do guys like a Scott, Poulter and Stenson do? And how much is Stenson regretting choosing the Saudis over Ryder cup (potential captaincy)? #askalan@ShoshEAK

If the SGL is in fact dead, they will do what Phil is going to do: try to mend fences privately while publicly saying they were intrigued by the possibilities but ultimately their heart was with the PGA Tour. It will be an eye-roll moment, but no more so than the annual “grow the game” comments when the players jet off to collect appearance fees at the Saudi International. 

Is Phil suspended? @Jeremy_Rudock

Given the statement he just released, maybe. I suppose “conduct unbecoming” is broad enough that the Tour could find a reason to suspend Mickelson, but that would just kind of prove his point that it’s a tone-deaf dictatorship. What is Phil’s transgression, other than using some naughty words? The Saudis are already part of the European Tour and now the Asian Tour; like it or not, they are a recognized force in the golf world. Paying for attorneys to write the SGL’s operating agreement is certainly a little shady, but I doubt it’s expressly forbidden in Tour’s player handbook.  Mickelson pressing pause feels a lot like Dustin Johnson’s time away from the game to focus on his personal growth. Is it a suspension or a voluntary leave of absence? Some of it is just semantics. DJ emerged as a better person and player. I wish the same for Phil.

Given that most casual golf fans don’t spend time with golf Twitter, many are probably unaware of the events of this week. Given this, what sort of reception do you expect Mickelson to receive the next time he tees it up? @FisherM24

This is a key point: Golf Twitter is not real life. Most fans are barely paying attention to the Saudi intrigue, although that may change with Mickelson having released his statement. Phil will survive this controversy just as he has survived all of the other preceding controversies. Those who love him will still love him, because the Saudi dalliance is on-brand for a self-styled maverick. Those who don’t will just have another reason to justify their feelings. Phil has survived Billy Walters, playing tennis on the 13th green at Shinnecock Hills during the national championship and throwing Tom Watson under a Greyhound. He is nothing if not a survivor.

87 thoughts on “#AskAlan, Mickelson edition”

  1. Reminds me of my favorite qatari businessman, ,mansour obli. He shot course record in a battle of wits. Five birdies four pars multiple hoes conducted in a high wind storm from seas. Never forget that day and subsequent debacles in the forested region of sri lanka.

  2. Pingback: PGA Tour news: Phil Mickelson's latest claims shot down by author Alan Shipnuck

  3. Think its obvious he didnt want you to share the exact words you have quoted. Its obvious you both have had an affection for each other, as you’ve followed him and his family for several years. He probably put too much faith in that affection and connection in that you would not put such disparaging remarks out like that. The trust obviously from his end is eroded but i wonder if you ever felt second thoughts before putting out something that will clearly affect the legacy of your favourite subject over your career?

    1. I tend to agree, especially when considering the dominant feeling that Phil’s main motivation is money followed closely by popularity. To be one of the most social media savvy PGA players, hard to believe he would knowingly share what he did, the way he did w/out the assumption of ‘off the record’ but that is very dangerous word for obvious reasons. Surely Alan being fully aware of the ramifications only shared what he did out of journalistic integrity versus self motivation to drive sales of his upcoming book???!!!

      1. You nailed it. Shipnuck is a scumbag who knows damn well that Phil would never have wanted those words to go public. But you let these writers, or whatever they call themselves, get a chance to exploit a situation for their own benefit (current state of journalism, hello?) and they will take it like sharks after chum. Decency in that profession is non-existent and it’s why MSM is not to be trusted.

        1. I couldn’t agree more. I think Shitfuck should watch his back. Those Saudi’s and any one involve with them are scary mutherfuckers…

        2. You do understand that the author was only exposing Mickelson’s hypocrisy? He was willing to get into bed with murderers and terrorists because it would line his pockets to do so. And yet it’s the reporter you attack. Where’s your moral compass?

        3. Tim, you are exactly correct. The fact he apparently got close to the Mickelson family and then repeat something he says without verifying it was to be repeated, off the record or not, is typical of media today. Sell the book, the article and greed is what it is all about and hypocrisy is rampant in America today. Hypocrites on tour calling out greed on Mickelson is like China calling out Saudi for their atrocities to humanity. All is ok for the NBA and Lebron James to be in bed and business with the Chinese because they won’t admit to the atrocities they commit. Besides if you look at what most believe is the reason for all this mess, was for PGA players getting rights to their video imagines, as I didn’t know, they haven’t any rights to profit on them also. My God, the Supreme Court ruled that 17 and 18 year olds in College should be able to profit on their Name, Imagine and Likeness (NIL) before they even take a snap or accomplish anything on the field. And here you have huge winners and even non-winners on the PGA tour that don’t have a right to profit off their accomplishment on the course. Something just doesn’t look right with this picture. The only ones on tour that are blasting Phil are the ones who are making multi millions, not the ones not winning, but their NIL is used for the benefit of the PGA Tour.

          No doubt Phil may should have kept his feelings inside and not trusted Shipnuck not to repeat everything they talked about that might damage him, humans make mistakes, but as we have seen the Freedom of Speech without reprisal in the US is gone and there is no definitive definition what is acceptable. Phil Michelson is a good person, perfect No, neither are the people who are blasting him.

      2. Sam Lee
        You said it well and said it true. Alan Shipnuck took off the record comments, saw the chance to promote his forthcoming book and smeared Phil Mickelson for one purpose and one only: out him=explosive publicity=impact book sales. My hope is that book sales flop and fail. He’s self serving, and opportunistic. This interview was a bad joke
        Thanks for calling out the truth.

        1. Alan Shipnuck is a respected journalist. Neither you nor anyone else aside from Alan and Phil knows whether the comments were off the record. For a journalist to publish off the record comments would destroy his credibility with other subjects. After reading Phil’s comments, I tend to believe Shipnuck.

        1. The PGA Tour and PGA of America are two entirely separate entities. The PGA of America runs the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup. The PGA Tour runs the Presidents Cup.

      1. Not so. Any “invitation” can be revoked, particularly with the Masters. Technically, even a PGA Tour winner during the past year does not receive an “automatic” invitation. Although that’s certainly “understood” when a player wins, the Masters still has the final word and the player must “receive” an invitation. My guess is that Phil has already been contacted by the Masters and was privately “informed” that he will not be invited; so, rather than be even further embarrassed or put them in an awkward situation, he pre-emptively said he was “stepping away” for a while. The timing of his statement yesterday was likely because of the nearness of the Masters. The Masters does not want its tournament to be overshadowed with Mickelsen being present and everything that would be surrounding his controversies.

        1. This story will overshadow the Masters even more if Phil is NOT invited. Phil teeing it up for the first time since this blew up would be a ratings bonanza for the Masters — and — they’d be able to control the narrative. I’d be shocked if he’s not in the field.

          1. It won’t overshadow the tournament because The Masters will probably let Nance say one quick cliched line about Phil not being there and it will not be mentioned again. He will be a non-person Masters week.

  4. Pingback: Phil Mickelson's Apology Makes Him Look Even Worse

  5. Pingback: Hardt kritiserte Mickelson ber om unnskyldning – hevder utsagn er tatt ut av sammenhengen - News WWC

  6. Pingback: Phil Mickelson apologizes for recent comments, needs ‘some time away’ | Daily Post Tribune

  7. Pingback: Phil Mickelson s'excuse pour ses commentaires récents, a besoin de "un peu de temps" - Nouvelles Du Monde

  8. I think Phil has an early lead on the 2022 PIP Bonus lol. All of these gutless phony PGA Tour members were privately rooting him on and now killing him publicly. Golf Channel are hypocrites. They broadcast the Saudi International every year. So they pay the Saudis $$$ for broadcast rights. Masters, PGA, & British Open he has met qualifications to play until 60. Masters is lifetime. Go Phil

    1. Doesn’t it suck that you aren’t allowed to express your feelings? If the information I read is true about the Saudis and their obviously different attitude towards others is correct; then I’m alongside of Phil. As for Ash….he can keep his book. Some will do anything for money, even try to destroy another for a buck!

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  10. Pingback: Phil Mickelson apologizes for recent comments, needs ‘some time away’- webtoday.us

  11. One unfair aspect to Phil is that he is taking ALL the pain, when 19 other players who committed to SGL obviously put their morals aside, and aligned their selves with the Saudi’s, overlooking all of those despicable human rights issues – same as Phil. Those players keep their sponsors and reputations in tact. Do you anticipate any blowback to those whom essentially mirrored the exact same actions and thoughts as Phil? Phil suffers the consequences and everyone else got away clean… thoughts ?

    1. As those players names are released, there will be similar consequences. The golf fans will have to hold the sponsors accountable to make the consequences real. Most of the names that will come out (Hoffman, Scott, Westwood??) are past their prime and will be stung by any dropped sponsor. It is interesting, if Phil continues to lose sponsors, that his main opportunity to make money will be on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions, which are the organizations he tried to destroy.

    2. True. Those “other” players were likely “signed up” and when they saw the ensuing “unraveling” of it all with the recently disclosed Mickelsen comments, the curious “timing” of their “full-throated” statements yesterday in support of the PGA Tour were fully self-serving, most notably with Bryson and DJ who had been coyly keeping relatively quiet until then. Mickelsen, quite stupidly or bravely depending on one’s perspective, took all the brunt while the others wanted the upside of receiving a payday with the SGL, but without the downside that Mickelsen has absorbed. Phil has said that he and two “other” players actually hired lawyers to draft up the operating procedures for the SGL. I wonder if the names of those two players (and maybe more) will ever be disclosed? Aren’t they effectively just as “guilty” of attempting to “undermine” the PGA Tour as Phil?

  12. Pingback: Golf Hardt kritiserte Mickelson ber om unnskyldning – hevder utsagn er tatt ut av sammenhengen – U-News

  13. What of the Saudi “promised” US$300m for the Asian Tour ?
    World Golf still needs to accept that the large geography and growing golf footprint across Asia is important medium term.
    Will it accept Saudi $ without the player impact on the PGA Tour ?
    Including Australia and NZ in the “ünderdone “tournament golf scene , and the growth of the Korean and Japanese Men’s tours to be more global in outcomes ( more players graduating internationally ).

  14. Pingback: Phil Mickelson apologizes for recent comments, needs ‘some time away’ - Elite News

  15. I disagree with you about how fans will react to this. I’ve been a Phil fan all my life but this conduct is beyond the pale. I will never root for the guy again. I think he’s going to be in exile for the rest of his golf life.

  16. The attack against Tom Watson was absolutely disgusting and the other players did not come to Tom’s defense. Tom was a complete gentleman and didn’t fire back. It is sad how long it took reporters/players to let the real Phil come to light. Just consider that David Faherty says Tom Watson saved his life about his drinking, then compare that to Phil playing the victim card in his 6 paragraph “apology”…

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  18. Why do people with more money than 99 percent of the average people open their mouths to complain about petty things just play the game of golf do your endorsements and enjoy your priveliged life’s some people work their whole life and don’t make what some players make for winning one tournament you just show your true colors when you start whining it just goes to prove that you can’t buy class

  19. Pingback: Phil Mickelson Apologizes for Comments About Saudi-Backed Tour: 'It was Reckless' - Patriots.Social

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  22. The problem with Phil’s…behind the scene comments…to Alan…regarding his desire to affect change with respect to how the governing body of the PGA is monetarily
    non-transparent…dictatorial…and refuses to give the top players control over their golfing footage suggests…where he will take all the heat from being the main rogue/maverick player…to affect change…by working his leverage piece with the SGL is abhorrent. There are other means to affect change…and herein lies Phil’s misstep…he should not be fall guy here…going at this alone…he should have all others involved…19 of them?…be unified as this saga unfolds…to get the PGA’s current…behind the cloak platforms…revealed.

    Alan…do you know of any of the 19 players on board here?

  23. Who thinks Phil actually wrote his statement yesterday? On one hand, it was so poorly written in many ways that he might have done so on his own. On the other hand, I would have to assume that he wouldn’t have been so stupid to not at least have had someone review it before hitting the send key. However, it seems he needs a more competent agent/manager/lawyer advising him because it was fraught with vagaries and other issues that are only going to open up even more questions about him. After reading it, my guess is that Phil’s problems run deeper than just this SGL matter. Maybe his seemingly irrational behavior is the result of financial (recently sold his prized plane), marital (how about that weight loss?), gambling addiction (enough said about this), and who knows what other personal issues that might be plaguing him behind the scenes. It has been long-rumored that he signed with Callaway because part of his deal back then was that they’d pay off his 8-figure gambling debt to leave Titleist. Just maybe something similar took place with the Saudis in exchange for his support of the SGL? We’ve likely not yet heard the crux of his personal saga. Time will tell.

  24. Pingback: Phil Mickelson apologizes for comments about a Saudi-backed golf league : NPR – The Arizona Times

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  26. Pingback: Phil Mickelson's apology to Saudis shows how corrupt deal was - Corruption Buzz

  27. I’m afraid this revelation that he gave you these quotes more than three months ago undermines everything in my view. If not off the record, why not break them straight away? Why wait? The story was buzzing back then. He thought you were writing a book about him and gave you a long view of what had been going on. He was trying to give you some perspective for when you published a couple of years down the line, once the Saudi project had fizzled out and the PGA Tour had upped its game. Did you tell him what he said was going to be published earlier than publication of a book?

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  30. Alan,
    Do you not find It off that the PGA Tour does not find this newsworthy? I have the PGA Tour app on my phone. Phil’s statement in not listed on their news feed. I would suggest that that is because the Golf Channel is acting as the mouth piece (like TASS or PRAVDA) in the old Soviet Union to discredit PM. Jack Nicklaud spoke out about Phil yesterday but he took money from the same Saudis and is currently designing a golf course in SA. #Hypocrisy. Do you realize you are being used as a pawn in a greater game of global golf chess? What is wrong with competition? Capitalism is based on competition. Perhaps Phil is right, the PGA Tour is acting like an Authoritarian regime. #PhilMickelson.

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  33. change his nickname to FIGJAE F*ck I’m GREEDY just ask everyone!
    I hope Callaway ends there relationship with him…I’m not putting new Callaway clubs in my bag
    if he is still a face of the company.

  34. Very well worded, this is how I feel. The author respectfully answered the questions above but this is something that his name will always be associated with. I would not want to be in that position. In a world of writing that is clicks and landing a big story, this is just too hard to look past.

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  37. I think that anybody with any intelligence realizes that Phil would not have made those comments had he thought that Alan would share them. Alan is also smart enough to know this – it was very clearly meant as off the record.

    Anyone who’s followed Alan over his career knows that he always wants to be the story, rather than report about a story.. no change here.

    Also, this is frustrating from the development of the game of golf. I’m no admirer of either the SGL or the PGA tour, but at least this SGL initiative would have forced the tour to change the sleep-inducing product they put out every week. Thanks again Alan.

  38. Not sure but after reading everything I can. Looks like Alan has a huge ego. Since I, like millions of others have never heard your name before this. If you wanted fame, I guess you have your 15 minutes now.

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  41. JM, I agree and would take a step further. Anyone who destroys another persons life, barring a criminal, is more than egotistical.

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  53. GREED. That is the bottom line. Norman, Mickelson, et al just reinforce the Saudi Royalty`s belief money can buy anyone. Where was their concern for “improving” the Tour when they failed to limit equipment (like all other major sports) and backed down against Karsten Ping thereby threatening future use of many of the longtime tour courses.

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  58. Pingback: Phil Mickelson's LIV controversy, explained: How support for Saudi-backed golf tour got star in hot water - Sporting News - GraphicUV

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