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Phil addresses the Rumors


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#1 Gxgolfer

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Posted 16 May 2005 - 04:03 PM

HAD HIS PHIL

By MARK CANNIZZARO


May 15, 2005 -- CHARLOTTE - Some 350 days of the year or more, most people would give up their most worldly possession to be Phil Mickelson.

There is, after all, the wealth beyond most of our wildest dreams that affords a luxurious private jet with all the fixings, including multiple satellite TVs so he and his guests can watch live sporting events while traveling.

There's more God-given talent for golf in one of the cuticles on his left hand than most of us have in our entire body.

There is, of course, his beautiful wife, Amy, and their three healthy children.

Yes, Phil Mickelson - with the 2004 Masters as well as 25 other PGA Tour victories to his credit, is on top of the world.

This is a great thing . . . and also a curse.

During the last year or so - primarily since his Augusta breakthrough put him at the top of the popularity charts in his sport - Mickelson has endured some of the pitfalls that come with being on top.

Tiger Woods, at least the most recognizable athlete and possibly the most recognizable person in the world, has had to deal with the destructive forces of fame virtually since the moment he burst upon the golf scene; a certain element of society has tried to break him down in some of the most insidious ways.

Mickelson is currently experiencing those forces, being chastised by many for his storied high-stakes gambling habits despite his insistence that he stopped some two years ago, and listening to some wild supermarket tabloid-type rumors swirl about him - rumors so twisted and unfounded that they don't warrant being repeated; too many misinformed people already take them as fact.

"I've never understood, and probably never will fully understand, what Tiger goes through," Mickelson told The Post in an exclusive interview from the locker room of the Wachovia Championship last week in Charlotte, "But I've gotten a little taste of it this last year."

That taste has been sobering for Mickelson, who spends more time than any other player on the PGA Tour (and most athletes in any sport) signing autographs for fans after practices and competitive rounds.

"It's been very interesting to hear some of the stuff that's been said about me - some of the hurtful stuff, some of the malicious rumors I've heard about me," Mickelson said.

When Mickelson abruptly withdrew from a tournament in Las Vegas last fall, rumors swirled like storm clouds that he'd spent the night gambling and couldn't answer the bell for his Saturday tee time.

Mickelson, however, said he became violently sick to his stomach on the way to the course and went directly to the hospital - causing alarm at the tournament, where organizers were for a short time unaware of his status.

"One minute I heard I was up $4 million and the next minute I heard I was down $4 million," Mickelson said of the stories. "It was ridiculous."

Despite the fact that the last time anyone checked, gambling is legal in Las Vegas and in other places, Mickelson could not be more vehement in his insistence that he hasn't gambled since his son, Evan, was born in March of 2003 after a pregnancy that was so difficult he nearly lost both Evan and his wife.

"I'm allergic to smoke and I don't like the taste of alcohol," Mickelson said. "So, the only [vice] I enjoyed was gambling a little bit, and that was kind of the only bargaining chip that I could find two years ago with Evan's birth."

Mickelson - who wrote about the reason he ceased gambling in the book he and Amy wrote, titled "One Magical Sunday" - has been reticent to talk publicly about the gambling, he says, because he feels like it only adds fuel to the rumors.

When Mickelson made a controversial equipment switch from Titleist to Callaway just before last fall's Ryder Cup, for example, rumors ran rampant that Callaway had assumed gambling debts that he couldn't afford to pay. The company's founder, the late Ely Callaway, was said to have paid some of John Daly's debts when he signed Daly, which is probably the reason Mickelson was tagged with those rumors.

Another source of the rumors' momentum came from Mickelson's much-publicized bet, with a group of friends, on the Ravens to win the 2001 Super Bowl. The group won nearly $500,000 at 28-1 odds. His reputation was further burnished when the PGA Tour slapped him on the wrist for making a $500 wager with fellow golfer Mike Weir at the NEC Invitational that August and, later, after he and friends won $60,000 by picking the Diamondbacks to beat the Yankees in the World Series.

"When I hear things said that are malicious, I have to call every one of the companies I represent and let them know," said Mickelson, when asked how he handles the constant innuendo. " . . . I've had to make sure everyone knew what was being said and how it wasn't true.

"As a representative of a company, I take that really seriously, because a lot of companies shy away from having individuals represent them because of the philosophy that events don't fail; people do," he added. "Every one of my companies have done background checks - and I want them to, I encourage it, because they're taking a huge leap of faith trusting me with their product and being a part of their company."

Billy Mayfair, Mickelson's closest friend on the PGA Tour, marvels at how his friend handles the bad hands that fame sometimes deals him.

"I think sometimes he's opened his mouth and let people take shots at him, but he's gotten to the point now where he doesn't let that bother him," Mayfair said. "I figure if something would be true, either Phil or Amy would tell my wife Tammy and I and we'd help them deal with it."

Tour veteran Nick Price, who's been through it all as a top player, said he's not surprised when he hears the crazy rumors.

"The higher up the pedestal you get, the bigger the target you make," Price said. "When you get to the top of that pedestal, there are more people looking at you and there are more people taking dead aim at you."

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#2 Hifade

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Posted 16 May 2005 - 10:48 PM

Give 'em hell Phil. The media is filled with nothing but "armchair quarterbacks" and dejected wanabes so fu<k 'em all.
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#3 nochct

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Posted 25 August 2005 - 12:46 PM

Hifade, on May 16 2005, 10:48 PM, said:

Give 'em hell Phil. The media is filled with nothing but "armchair quarterbacks" and dejected wanabes so fu<k 'em all.

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and very talented writers. not to mention reporters who have worked very very hard to get to where they are.

#4 JHR

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Posted 25 August 2005 - 12:50 PM

The media has to have someone to write about at all times, and theres no way they can pick on Tiger, so why not Phil.

#5 canadian_mike

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Posted 25 August 2005 - 04:15 PM

it says a lot about phil on how he deals with the constant controversy about him and gambling. and he gives a lot of respect to tiger and knows how hard it is to be the best like tiger and try and deal with what tiger goes through. nomatter what u say to the media, there always going to write about it asnd criticize u for it.


#6 nearfall152

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 02:42 AM

nochct, on Aug 25 2005, 10:46 AM, said:

Hifade, on May 16 2005, 10:48 PM, said:

Give 'em hell Phil. The media is filled with nothing but "armchair quarterbacks" and dejected wanabes so fu<k 'em all.

View Post



and very talented writers. not to mention reporters who have worked very very hard to get to where they are.

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Writers are just like any other profession, some of them are aholes, some are reputable...as nice as it would be, you can't just dismiss everything that is said in the media just because they can't break 80...a lot of tour guys couldn't write their own resume...what does that prove?

I don't think the gambling stuff is true...and I PRAY that all his personal stuff isn't true (for his family's sake), but right or wrong, speculation goes with the territory of Callaway/Ford/Bering Strait endorsements.
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#7 m3nace

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 10:00 AM

Who published this article?

#8 Gxgolfer

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 10:05 AM

I believe this was a NY Post Article.

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#9 DemolitionMan

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 10:44 AM

Cannizzaro is a regular NY Post / NY Post Online writer.  His expertise is the Jets.  He likes Phil Mickelson a lot too.

I can't say with any definitiveness what happenned to PM missing a tee time at LV, but if he was really sincere about squelching the rumors, then he should have the hospital validate his claim.  Not that he owes any explanantion, but this particular rumor has been following him for a long time, so why not end it?

Funny thing is, before my wife and my own sanity got the better of me, I used to gamble a lot in LV.  So I have seen more than my fair share of celebrity gamblers and have heard the stories from my casino host.  Even if only half the stories were half true and even if I was only sober half the time with blurred vision, the bottom line is PM is much more of a gambler than he cares to admit.  There is no doubt in my mind he has spent a ton of money in LV.  And I never even heard the missing the LVI tee time story until a few months ago.  So it's not like he was in LV once.

Sure, gambling in LV is legal.  If PM wants to blow all his cash in the casino, great, go for it, have fun.  Why should I care?  I just find it a bit hypocritcal and unrealistic to expect that people will back off rumors and leave gambling stories alone when PM built his own reputation in the first place and does not want to set the record straight.  It's not like he was on his way out on a flight and for the fun of it played the slots once and then the rumors turned into 'PM lost $1M on slots.'  The guy bet a lot, bragged about it, and now the attention has become too much.  I am sure he has some great stories himself, so why not come out with it and move on.  He quit gambling, so what difference does it make?

I will give PM the benefit of the doubt and believe he swore off gambling in a prayer to save his son.  Even though to publish that story in your own book to toot your own horn is beyond classless.

This is precisely why it is so easy for fans to gravitate to John Daly.  He is ten times more real than PM will ever be.

#10 surferdave2000

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 02:50 PM

First off, I hate the media (in general).
They think the 1st amendment give them the right to write/tell whatever crap they can think of and get away with.
There's no more integrity with TV media, it's all about ratings & money.

Second, so what he gambles a little.
He doesn't drink, he doesn't smoke. I don't think he use illegal narcotics.
I've not heard he beat his wife or have mistresses with kids in every city he visits.
Since he doesn't drink, odds are he won't be arrested in a DWI accident.
Some thinks his belly is too big,
but I think 99% of us could use few extra stomach crunches ourselves.
Besides, he's won two majors with that belly so I think he's doing fine.

What more perfection do we expect of our celebrity idols/heroes?
He's a family man that plays golf well and is an amiable ambassador of the sport.
It's time for the media to go write about those 'less than perfect' athletes in other sports and leave Phil (& John Daly) alone.
If there is one thing I don't like about Phil,
it's those stupid commercials with him wearing a kung fu suit.
(not a very flattering look unless you're Jet Li)

(OK, end of my rant)


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#11 archer

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 04:34 PM

Nice post.  Unfortunately, it has been more than the press involved in the "smear Phil" campaign.  

Immediately after his Masters victory last year, I noticed a disturbing pattern on a number of other golf discussion boards.  A "member" of the board -usually a brand new member who had never posted before - would come on and claim that he or she heard from a friend who was a well-known tour pro that Mickelson had accumulated gambling debts totaling 7 or 8 figures, that he had a mistress who had given birth to his child, that "Sports Illustrated" was weeks away from doing an expose, etc.  After the Ryder Cup, the rumors were modified to say that he had broken his deal with Titleist and signed with Callaway for the extra money to pay off his debts.

Needless to say, the "Sports Illustrated" story never appeared, though that fact had little effect on the rumormongers.

The reaction on most discussion boards was interesting.  Despite the lack of a single credible, verifiable fact in any of these posts, most people responding to the posts seemed to believe him guilty, proving the old maxim that if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.

A few months ago, I listened to a radio interview of author John Feinstein.  According to Feinstein, Sports Illustrated did check out the story, but printed nothing because there was nothing to print.  He went on to say that investigative reporters at SI were among the best business and that if they couldn't find anything, there probably wasn't anything to find.

Since his win at the PGA, I have been expecting the old rumors to surface again.  I am happy to see Mickelson take the offensive this time and address the rumors.

Gxgolfer, on May 16 2005, 01:03 PM, said:

HAD HIS PHIL

By MARK CANNIZZARO


May 15, 2005 -- CHARLOTTE - Some 350 days of the year or more, most people would give up their most worldly possession to be Phil Mickelson.

There is, after all, the wealth beyond most of our wildest dreams that affords a luxurious private jet with all the fixings, including multiple satellite TVs so he and his guests can watch live sporting events while traveling.

There's more God-given talent for golf in one of the cuticles on his left hand than most of us have in our entire body.

There is, of course, his beautiful wife, Amy, and their three healthy children.

Yes, Phil Mickelson - with the 2004 Masters as well as 25 other PGA Tour victories to his credit, is on top of the world.

This is a great thing . . . and also a curse.

During the last year or so - primarily since his Augusta breakthrough put him at the top of the popularity charts in his sport - Mickelson has endured some of the pitfalls that come with being on top.

Tiger Woods, at least the most recognizable athlete and possibly the most recognizable person in the world, has had to deal with the destructive forces of fame virtually since the moment he burst upon the golf scene; a certain element of society has tried to break him down in some of the most insidious ways.

Mickelson is currently experiencing those forces, being chastised by many for his storied high-stakes gambling habits despite his insistence that he stopped some two years ago, and listening to some wild supermarket tabloid-type rumors swirl about him - rumors so twisted and unfounded that they don't warrant being repeated; too many misinformed people already take them as fact.

"I've never understood, and probably never will fully understand, what Tiger goes through," Mickelson told The Post in an exclusive interview from the locker room of the Wachovia Championship last week in Charlotte, "But I've gotten a little taste of it this last year."

That taste has been sobering for Mickelson, who spends more time than any other player on the PGA Tour (and most athletes in any sport) signing autographs for fans after practices and competitive rounds.

"It's been very interesting to hear some of the stuff that's been said about me - some of the hurtful stuff, some of the malicious rumors I've heard about me," Mickelson said.

When Mickelson abruptly withdrew from a tournament in Las Vegas last fall, rumors swirled like storm clouds that he'd spent the night gambling and couldn't answer the bell for his Saturday tee time.

Mickelson, however, said he became violently sick to his stomach on the way to the course and went directly to the hospital - causing alarm at the tournament, where organizers were for a short time unaware of his status.

"One minute I heard I was up $4 million and the next minute I heard I was down $4 million," Mickelson said of the stories. "It was ridiculous."

Despite the fact that the last time anyone checked, gambling is legal in Las Vegas and in other places, Mickelson could not be more vehement in his insistence that he hasn't gambled since his son, Evan, was born in March of 2003 after a pregnancy that was so difficult he nearly lost both Evan and his wife.

"I'm allergic to smoke and I don't like the taste of alcohol," Mickelson said. "So, the only [vice] I enjoyed was gambling a little bit, and that was kind of the only bargaining chip that I could find two years ago with Evan's birth."

Mickelson - who wrote about the reason he ceased gambling in the book he and Amy wrote, titled "One Magical Sunday" - has been reticent to talk publicly about the gambling, he says, because he feels like it only adds fuel to the rumors.

When Mickelson made a controversial equipment switch from Titleist to Callaway just before last fall's Ryder Cup, for example, rumors ran rampant that Callaway had assumed gambling debts that he couldn't afford to pay. The company's founder, the late Ely Callaway, was said to have paid some of John Daly's debts when he signed Daly, which is probably the reason Mickelson was tagged with those rumors.

Another source of the rumors' momentum came from Mickelson's much-publicized bet, with a group of friends, on the Ravens to win the 2001 Super Bowl. The group won nearly $500,000 at 28-1 odds. His reputation was further burnished when the PGA Tour slapped him on the wrist for making a $500 wager with fellow golfer Mike Weir at the NEC Invitational that August and, later, after he and friends won $60,000 by picking the Diamondbacks to beat the Yankees in the World Series.

"When I hear things said that are malicious, I have to call every one of the companies I represent and let them know," said Mickelson, when asked how he handles the constant innuendo. " . . . I've had to make sure everyone knew what was being said and how it wasn't true.

"As a representative of a company, I take that really seriously, because a lot of companies shy away from having individuals represent them because of the philosophy that events don't fail; people do," he added. "Every one of my companies have done background checks - and I want them to, I encourage it, because they're taking a huge leap of faith trusting me with their product and being a part of their company."

Billy Mayfair, Mickelson's closest friend on the PGA Tour, marvels at how his friend handles the bad hands that fame sometimes deals him.

"I think sometimes he's opened his mouth and let people take shots at him, but he's gotten to the point now where he doesn't let that bother him," Mayfair said. "I figure if something would be true, either Phil or Amy would tell my wife Tammy and I and we'd help them deal with it."

Tour veteran Nick Price, who's been through it all as a top player, said he's not surprised when he hears the crazy rumors.

"The higher up the pedestal you get, the bigger the target you make," Price said. "When you get to the top of that pedestal, there are more people looking at you and there are more people taking dead aim at you."

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#12 shoe295

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Posted 27 August 2005 - 01:56 PM

Show me a man with no skeletons in his closet and I'll see a man without closets!  Everybody everywhere mucks up now and again ; the thing is who cares?  It's enough of a chore to keep my own small universe in order without trying to figure what's up with someone else's life.  It makes zero difference in my existance whether Phil does or doesn't anything, unless of course he's on the phone inviting me to join his 4some!  Live and let live.

#13 shortgame1

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Posted 27 August 2005 - 02:07 PM

Gxgolfer, on May 16 2005, 04:03 PM, said:

HAD HIS PHIL

By MARK CANNIZZARO


May 15, 2005 -- CHARLOTTE - Some 350 days of the year or more, most people would give up their most worldly possession to be Phil Mickelson.

There is, after all, the wealth beyond most of our wildest dreams that affords a luxurious private jet with all the fixings, including multiple satellite TVs so he and his guests can watch live sporting events while traveling.

There's more God-given talent for golf in one of the cuticles on his left hand than most of us have in our entire body.

There is, of course, his beautiful wife, Amy, and their three healthy children.

Yes, Phil Mickelson - with the 2004 Masters as well as 25 other PGA Tour victories to his credit, is on top of the world.

This is a great thing . . . and also a curse.

During the last year or so - primarily since his Augusta breakthrough put him at the top of the popularity charts in his sport - Mickelson has endured some of the pitfalls that come with being on top.

Tiger Woods, at least the most recognizable athlete and possibly the most recognizable person in the world, has had to deal with the destructive forces of fame virtually since the moment he burst upon the golf scene; a certain element of society has tried to break him down in some of the most insidious ways.

Mickelson is currently experiencing those forces, being chastised by many for his storied high-stakes gambling habits despite his insistence that he stopped some two years ago, and listening to some wild supermarket tabloid-type rumors swirl about him - rumors so twisted and unfounded that they don't warrant being repeated; too many misinformed people already take them as fact.

"I've never understood, and probably never will fully understand, what Tiger goes through," Mickelson told The Post in an exclusive interview from the locker room of the Wachovia Championship last week in Charlotte, "But I've gotten a little taste of it this last year."

That taste has been sobering for Mickelson, who spends more time than any other player on the PGA Tour (and most athletes in any sport) signing autographs for fans after practices and competitive rounds.

"It's been very interesting to hear some of the stuff that's been said about me - some of the hurtful stuff, some of the malicious rumors I've heard about me," Mickelson said.

When Mickelson abruptly withdrew from a tournament in Las Vegas last fall, rumors swirled like storm clouds that he'd spent the night gambling and couldn't answer the bell for his Saturday tee time.

Mickelson, however, said he became violently sick to his stomach on the way to the course and went directly to the hospital - causing alarm at the tournament, where organizers were for a short time unaware of his status.

"One minute I heard I was up $4 million and the next minute I heard I was down $4 million," Mickelson said of the stories. "It was ridiculous."

Despite the fact that the last time anyone checked, gambling is legal in Las Vegas and in other places, Mickelson could not be more vehement in his insistence that he hasn't gambled since his son, Evan, was born in March of 2003 after a pregnancy that was so difficult he nearly lost both Evan and his wife.

"I'm allergic to smoke and I don't like the taste of alcohol," Mickelson said. "So, the only [vice] I enjoyed was gambling a little bit, and that was kind of the only bargaining chip that I could find two years ago with Evan's birth."

Mickelson - who wrote about the reason he ceased gambling in the book he and Amy wrote, titled "One Magical Sunday" - has been reticent to talk publicly about the gambling, he says, because he feels like it only adds fuel to the rumors.

When Mickelson made a controversial equipment switch from Titleist to Callaway just before last fall's Ryder Cup, for example, rumors ran rampant that Callaway had assumed gambling debts that he couldn't afford to pay. The company's founder, the late Ely Callaway, was said to have paid some of John Daly's debts when he signed Daly, which is probably the reason Mickelson was tagged with those rumors.

Another source of the rumors' momentum came from Mickelson's much-publicized bet, with a group of friends, on the Ravens to win the 2001 Super Bowl. The group won nearly $500,000 at 28-1 odds. His reputation was further burnished when the PGA Tour slapped him on the wrist for making a $500 wager with fellow golfer Mike Weir at the NEC Invitational that August and, later, after he and friends won $60,000 by picking the Diamondbacks to beat the Yankees in the World Series.

"When I hear things said that are malicious, I have to call every one of the companies I represent and let them know," said Mickelson, when asked how he handles the constant innuendo. " . . . I've had to make sure everyone knew what was being said and how it wasn't true.

"As a representative of a company, I take that really seriously, because a lot of companies shy away from having individuals represent them because of the philosophy that events don't fail; people do," he added. "Every one of my companies have done background checks - and I want them to, I encourage it, because they're taking a huge leap of faith trusting me with their product and being a part of their company."

Billy Mayfair, Mickelson's closest friend on the PGA Tour, marvels at how his friend handles the bad hands that fame sometimes deals him.

"I think sometimes he's opened his mouth and let people take shots at him, but he's gotten to the point now where he doesn't let that bother him," Mayfair said. "I figure if something would be true, either Phil or Amy would tell my wife Tammy and I and we'd help them deal with it."

Tour veteran Nick Price, who's been through it all as a top player, said he's not surprised when he hears the crazy rumors.

"The higher up the pedestal you get, the bigger the target you make," Price said. "When you get to the top of that pedestal, there are more people looking at you and there are more people taking dead aim at you."

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I say the heck with the media people who are just out for a juicy story. dod you hear anything about the homes for our troops website ? so far to date it has Phil donating $92,000 for 2005 maybe they can put that in their pipe and smoke it. I have also heard he spends hours signing autographs and says that when he signs for a kid and sees the smile on their face that is what makes his role so great. myself I have to pull for this guy and I tell my kids that this is a good role model for you guys. just compare him to T.O.  me me me me me  I want it all for me. what a joke! just my 2 cents

#14 Schmeidecki

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Posted 30 August 2005 - 08:57 AM

Speaking of first posts.  Come on Phil, let us know its you.  You could add to your goodwill campaign by hooking us all up with sweet tour equipement, I'm sure you can score some righty stuff correct?



archer, on Aug 26 2005, 04:34 PM, said:

Nice post.  Unfortunately, it has been more than the press involved in the "smear Phil" campaign. 

Immediately after his Masters victory last year, I noticed a disturbing pattern on a number of other golf discussion boards.  A "member" of the board -usually a brand new member who had never posted before - would come on and claim that he or she heard from a friend who was a well-known tour pro that Mickelson had accumulated gambling debts totaling 7 or 8 figures, that he had a mistress who had given birth to his child, that "Sports Illustrated" was weeks away from doing an expose, etc.  After the Ryder Cup, the rumors were modified to say that he had broken his deal with Titleist and signed with Callaway for the extra money to pay off his debts.

Needless to say, the "Sports Illustrated" story never appeared, though that fact had little effect on the rumormongers.

The reaction on most discussion boards was interesting.  Despite the lack of a single credible, verifiable fact in any of these posts, most people responding to the posts seemed to believe him guilty, proving the old maxim that if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.

A few months ago, I listened to a radio interview of author John Feinstein.  According to Feinstein, Sports Illustrated did check out the story, but printed nothing because there was nothing to print.  He went on to say that investigative reporters at SI were among the best business and that if they couldn't find anything, there probably wasn't anything to find.

Since his win at the PGA, I have been expecting the old rumors to surface again.  I am happy to see Mickelson take the offensive this time and address the rumors.

Gxgolfer, on May 16 2005, 01:03 PM, said:

HAD HIS PHIL

By MARK CANNIZZARO


May 15, 2005 -- CHARLOTTE - Some 350 days of the year or more, most people would give up their most worldly possession to be Phil Mickelson.

There is, after all, the wealth beyond most of our wildest dreams that affords a luxurious private jet with all the fixings, including multiple satellite TVs so he and his guests can watch live sporting events while traveling.

There's more God-given talent for golf in one of the cuticles on his left hand than most of us have in our entire body.

There is, of course, his beautiful wife, Amy, and their three healthy children.

Yes, Phil Mickelson - with the 2004 Masters as well as 25 other PGA Tour victories to his credit, is on top of the world.

This is a great thing . . . and also a curse.

During the last year or so - primarily since his Augusta breakthrough put him at the top of the popularity charts in his sport - Mickelson has endured some of the pitfalls that come with being on top.

Tiger Woods, at least the most recognizable athlete and possibly the most recognizable person in the world, has had to deal with the destructive forces of fame virtually since the moment he burst upon the golf scene; a certain element of society has tried to break him down in some of the most insidious ways.

Mickelson is currently experiencing those forces, being chastised by many for his storied high-stakes gambling habits despite his insistence that he stopped some two years ago, and listening to some wild supermarket tabloid-type rumors swirl about him - rumors so twisted and unfounded that they don't warrant being repeated; too many misinformed people already take them as fact.

"I've never understood, and probably never will fully understand, what Tiger goes through," Mickelson told The Post in an exclusive interview from the locker room of the Wachovia Championship last week in Charlotte, "But I've gotten a little taste of it this last year."

That taste has been sobering for Mickelson, who spends more time than any other player on the PGA Tour (and most athletes in any sport) signing autographs for fans after practices and competitive rounds.

"It's been very interesting to hear some of the stuff that's been said about me - some of the hurtful stuff, some of the malicious rumors I've heard about me," Mickelson said.

When Mickelson abruptly withdrew from a tournament in Las Vegas last fall, rumors swirled like storm clouds that he'd spent the night gambling and couldn't answer the bell for his Saturday tee time.

Mickelson, however, said he became violently sick to his stomach on the way to the course and went directly to the hospital - causing alarm at the tournament, where organizers were for a short time unaware of his status.

"One minute I heard I was up $4 million and the next minute I heard I was down $4 million," Mickelson said of the stories. "It was ridiculous."

Despite the fact that the last time anyone checked, gambling is legal in Las Vegas and in other places, Mickelson could not be more vehement in his insistence that he hasn't gambled since his son, Evan, was born in March of 2003 after a pregnancy that was so difficult he nearly lost both Evan and his wife.

"I'm allergic to smoke and I don't like the taste of alcohol," Mickelson said. "So, the only [vice] I enjoyed was gambling a little bit, and that was kind of the only bargaining chip that I could find two years ago with Evan's birth."

Mickelson - who wrote about the reason he ceased gambling in the book he and Amy wrote, titled "One Magical Sunday" - has been reticent to talk publicly about the gambling, he says, because he feels like it only adds fuel to the rumors.

When Mickelson made a controversial equipment switch from Titleist to Callaway just before last fall's Ryder Cup, for example, rumors ran rampant that Callaway had assumed gambling debts that he couldn't afford to pay. The company's founder, the late Ely Callaway, was said to have paid some of John Daly's debts when he signed Daly, which is probably the reason Mickelson was tagged with those rumors.

Another source of the rumors' momentum came from Mickelson's much-publicized bet, with a group of friends, on the Ravens to win the 2001 Super Bowl. The group won nearly $500,000 at 28-1 odds. His reputation was further burnished when the PGA Tour slapped him on the wrist for making a $500 wager with fellow golfer Mike Weir at the NEC Invitational that August and, later, after he and friends won $60,000 by picking the Diamondbacks to beat the Yankees in the World Series.

"When I hear things said that are malicious, I have to call every one of the companies I represent and let them know," said Mickelson, when asked how he handles the constant innuendo. " . . . I've had to make sure everyone knew what was being said and how it wasn't true.

"As a representative of a company, I take that really seriously, because a lot of companies shy away from having individuals represent them because of the philosophy that events don't fail; people do," he added. "Every one of my companies have done background checks - and I want them to, I encourage it, because they're taking a huge leap of faith trusting me with their product and being a part of their company."

Billy Mayfair, Mickelson's closest friend on the PGA Tour, marvels at how his friend handles the bad hands that fame sometimes deals him.

"I think sometimes he's opened his mouth and let people take shots at him, but he's gotten to the point now where he doesn't let that bother him," Mayfair said. "I figure if something would be true, either Phil or Amy would tell my wife Tammy and I and we'd help them deal with it."

Tour veteran Nick Price, who's been through it all as a top player, said he's not surprised when he hears the crazy rumors.

"The higher up the pedestal you get, the bigger the target you make," Price said. "When you get to the top of that pedestal, there are more people looking at you and there are more people taking dead aim at you."

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