Phil Mickelson was embroiled in controversy this week and now he has a chance to cap it off with what would be a surprising first victory in a LIV golf event.
Mickelson, who shot a second-round 67 on Saturday, is four shots behind leader Cam Smith heading into Sunday’s final round of LIV Golf-Bedminster at Trump National.
Smith is 9-under par, followed by Mickelson and Dean Burmeister, who are 5-under.
Mickelson, who finished in a tie for second with Brooks Koepka in this year’s Masters, won by Jon Rahm, has now won since his improbable win in the 2021 PGA Championship when he was 50 to become golf’s oldest major champion.
“It’s been a couple years, and I would love getting back into that feeling of having a chance to win and having each shot bring that pressure about,” said Mickelson, who has been nowhere near the leaderboard in any other LIV event this season.
Mickelson is No. 45 on the points list, having not finished better than 15th in the 48-man league.
Even more surprising, his good play comes after gambler Billy Walters released an excerpt from his book “Gambler: Secrets of a Life at Risk.”
Walters claimed Mickelson placed more than $1 billion in wagers over the last 30 years and wanted Walters to place a $400,000 bet on the 2012 Ryder Cup in which Mickelson played.
Mickelson, who also had a handshake with President Donald Trump earlier in the week, said he has never bet on the Ryder Cup.
“I never bet on the Ryder Cup. While it is well known that I always enjoy a friendly wager on the course, I would never undermine the integrity of the game,” he said in a statement on Thursday.
“I have also been very open about my gambling addiction. I have previously conveyed my remorse, took responsibility, have gotten help, have been fully committed to therapy that has positively impacted me and I feel good about where I am now.”
Mickelson, who has received support from fans at the event this week, did get ripped by Rory McIlroy, who is competing in The FedEx St. Jude Championship, the first playoff even in this year’s PGA FedEx Playoffs.
“At least he can bet on the Ryder Cup this year because he won’t be a part of it,” McIlroy told reporters on Thursday when the news broke.
Mickelson only can hope an unexpected win Sunday would be a silver lining in a controversial week.
But it will be a tough task overtaking Cam Smith, who won the Open Championship at St. Andrews in 2022 and has already won a LIV golf event this year.
Smith had a double bogey early in his round and did well not to drop more shots around the middle before he picked up momentum at the end.
“I probably had to lean on my short game a little bit more than I would wish, but that’s where it kind of helps having a nicer short game,” Smith said. “When things aren’t going your way and you can grind through a round and make some good pars. You never know when the driver and the irons are going to show up and you can start making birdies.”
— with AP