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Phil Mickelson remains ever popular despite bombshell gambling allegations

One day after the explosive gambling allegations were levied at Phil Mickelson by convicted felon Billy Walters by way of an excerpt from a book he authored, Mickelson’s popularity among the fans and his fellow players didn’t change one bit. 

He remains as popular as he always has been based on a number of interviews of fans and players by The Post during Friday’s opening round of the LIV Golf event at Trump Bedminster. 

As the 53-year-old lefty star shot a 1-under 70 to stand in 10th place, four shots behind leader Cameron Smith (5-under), three shots behind Patrick Reed (4-under) and three back of Charles Howell III (3-under), Mickelson looked no worse for the wear after Walters accused him of allegedly wanting to place a bet on the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup team (something Mickelson denied doing). 

Mickelson’s day began with a handshake from former President and tournament host Donald Trump, who sought him out on the practice range for a brief chat, before the round began. 

And, as he played his way around Trump Bedminster alongside playing partners Louis Oosthuizen and Joaquin Niemann, Mickelson was treated with the same adulation as he always has in his playing career. There were no snarky comments, just a lot of encouragement. 


Phil Mickelson gestures during the Bedminster Invitational LIV Golf tournament in Bedminster, N.J., Friday, Aug. 11, 2023.
AP

One thing is clear about Mickelson: His peers stand in praise of him for being the LIV lightning rod, the man out front and the person who’s faced the most criticism. 

“Listen, he’s taken a lot of bullets,’’ Charles Howell III told The Post. “But when there’s something that you believe in — and obviously he’s believed in this change — then it’s worth doing. And Phil’s done that. Everybody out here owes Phil a ‘thank you’ for helping get this thing off the ground and going.’’ 

Howell has found some of the criticism Mickelson has taken cringe worthy. 

“I think a lot of people can always armchair quarterback any situation,’’ he said. “I also know that life is hard and no one’s perfect, so I’m going to be the last guy to throw any stone or make any judgment when everybody’s fighting a different battle.’’ 


Phil Mickelson on the putting range before the start of the LIV Golf Bedminster 2023
Phil Mickelson on the putting range before the start of the LIV Golf Bedminster 2023.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Patrick Reed, who’s spent his share of time as a lightning rod, said Mickelson hasn’t changed since the day he first met him. 

“I feel like the interactions I’ve had with him — whether they were five years ago, two years ago or last week — they’re all the same,’’ Reed told The Post. “He hasn’t wavered, which shows you how head-strong he can be and how head-strong he is. Let’s be honest, there’s a lot of things that have been said and done and it just depends on how you’re going to react to them. And I feel like he’s reacted the right way. He’s handled himself well.’’ 

Mickelson, who put out a statement to The Post and a couple other outlets on Thursday denying the allegations made by Walters about him betting on the Ryder Cup in his upcoming book “Gambler: Secrets of a Life at Risk,” wasn’t available to speak to reporters after his round on Friday. 

“Phil’s been around forever,’’ Reed said. “He’s been the poster child at times, he’s been chasing down Tiger, he’s been a Ryder Cup hero, he’s been a guy that has critiqued things. I mean, he’s hit every spectrum, and even through that, any time I see him out there on the golf course he acts the exact same way. I feel like he’s mentally stronger now.’’ 

The earth around Mickelson didn’t shift after the Walters book allegations came out. A poll amongst fans watching the golf and following Mickelson was clear: No one cares about his gambling or how much he bet or lost. 


Billy Walters
Billy Walters made the bombshell allegations in an excerpt from a book he wrote.
AP

“What draws me to Phil is his aggression,’’ Long Island’s Mike Bertran said as he stood at the 16th hole. “He’s exciting, he makes things exciting. In some ways it’s that gambler in him, which is kind of fun. You see it on the golf course all the time, him taking chances, and it’s exciting to watch.’’ 

Bertran was one of the many who didn’t care about Mickelson’s gambling. 

“I’m sure the guy [Walters] is trying to sell his book and he has an axe to grind with Phil, so to me the numbers are probably somewhat exaggerated,’’ he said. 


Phil Mickelson hitting at the driving ranger before the start of the LIV Golf Bedminster 2023
Phil Mickelson hitting at the driving range before the start of the LIV Golf Bedminster 2023.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Art Smith from Rockland County, as he watched Mickelson tee off on the first hole, said, “So he likes to gamble. That’s his hobby. My hobby’s golf. He can afford to do what he wants.’’ 

Brothers Luke, William and Jack Mahala from Basking Ridge, N.J., followed Mickelson on Friday and were all in agreement: They’re fans and remain fans regardless of the Walters allegations. 

“He’s a great player who’s relatable to the people and the way he talks about golf and acts and carries himself is admirable,’’ Jack Mahala said. 

“His betting doesn’t bother me,’’ Luke Mahala said. “You could see it as a blemish to his career, but I don’t. I think it makes him more human.’’

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