Review: “Phil”, by Alan Shipnuck


“Phil” is not a drive-by character assassination. Shipnuck generally admires Mickelson and takes note of his philanthropy, sunny disposition, deadpan spirit, numerous random acts of kindness, and the fact that he is not a bad loser.

Shipnuck digs deeper into Mickelson’s game than anyone so far. His addiction led him to get close to questionable characters. He bets so much on football, Mickelson told a friend, that his bets “could move the line”. His gambling losses totaled more than $40 million from 2010 to 2014, according to documents reviewed by one of Shipnuck’s sources. The author therefore wonders if Mickelson needed this Saudi money.

Credit…Abigail Shipnuck

Mickelson was born in San Diego in 1970. His father was an airline pilot and a golf enthusiast. The family had a large garden with a putting green and room for 40m pitches. Mickelson trained late into the night. “There was no swing analysis, no computer spitting out spin rates,” Shipnuck writes, “just a very curious boy digging the secrets of the game in the dirt.”

By the time he was in high school, Mickelson was a networker and a schmoozer, Shipmuck writes, albeit a bit of a nerd. He didn’t drink; he wore garish sansabelt trousers and polo shirts with their popped collars and elaborate belt buckles and visors.

He attended Arizona State University, where his team won the national title. His tee shots stayed in the air forever, people said, as if they were Frisbees. Mickelson was a psychology student and he loves mental games.

It only seems scary once, when he talks about courting the woman who would become his wife, Amy Mickelson. He took her to see a movie full of suspense, he says, and at a critical moment he rubbed her hand so that “she displaces her fear as excitement or attraction to me. And that’s how I was able, when I didn’t have so many resources to work with, to get such a jewel.


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