Bets And Birdies: Three Memorable Phil Mickelson Wagers On The Golf Course

Written By Sean Chaffin on August 23, 2018 - Last Updated on April 1, 2019
Phil Mickelson

The golf season may be winding down, but fans will be eager to check out at least one more event on the horizon in 2018. Golf legends Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are now confirmed to play a winner-take-all heads-up match on Thanksgiving weekend at Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas.

The winner will take home $9 million. Woods and Mickelson are the top money earners in tour history and Mickelson would close the gap by a lot if he were to win this one as the underdog. Woods opened as a -130 favorite (Mickelson +110) at the Westgate SuperBook in Vegas when the match was first announced. The line moved to Woods -180 (Mickelson +150) at Westgate as of Wednesday evening.

Every shot can be viewed live, in pay-per-view, on the B/R Live app. Bettors will have no shortage of options to wager on the match; props and in-play betting will be a huge draw, especially in legal betting markets like New Jersey and Nevada where mobile betting will be available.

Mickelson said during a practice round for the Northern Trust Open this week that details are being worked out to allow various challenges during the match with Woods, including the longest drive, longest putt, and closest shot to the pin.

No stranger to throwing down a few bucks on a bet (OK, thousands usually), Mickelson is an old pro in the wagering game. We thought it would be fun to look at four interesting bets he made over the years, including three that happened right on the golf course.

Two million bucks? No problem

That’s no small football bet, but during the 2017 federal securities fraud trial of Las Vegas businessman and gambler Billy Walters, court documents revealed Mickelson had transferred $1.95 million to the gambler in 2012, according to ESPN.

The documents revealed: “Records show that in July 2012 Mickelson owed a debt to William T. Walters, the defendant, related to sports gambling.” Not one to welch on a bet, Mickelson transferred the money to Williams that September. No details on what Mickelson bet on, but his golf bets seem to have turned out better.

Not quite two million bucks

In a 2014 Masters practice round, Mickelson left a shot just off the green on the par-3 sixth hole. A fan said it was too tough a shot and Mickelson wouldn’t get up and down. A $1 bet was made – and the fan won.

Once again, Mickelson paid the bet, but had to borrow a five-dollar bill from a caddie, noting that he doesn’t carry small bills. The fan also took home a keepsake – a Mickelson golf ball. At least this loss didn’t require a bank transfer.

Putt it, bitch

On the course, apparently, Phil is money when bigger cash is on the line. Paul Azinger told PGA Tour Radio about a Mickelson shot many years back that netted Lefty a few thousand bucks against some golf legends.

On the 18th hole, all four golfers in the group had birdie putts, with Mickelson’s ball closest at 15 feet. The three others missed, and each had $1,600 on the line. If Mickelson made the putt, they owed him that amount.

“If he makes it, we lose $1,600,” Azinger said. “If we beg out, we forfeit $800. But if he misses it, we only lose $400. So Payne (Stewart) says, ‘I’m out.’ I said it was downhill, right-to-left. He’s not making it.”

Ben Crenshaw also begged out, locking up $800 for Mickelson. Azinger decided to stay at the full amount and said to Mickelson, “Putt it, bitch.” Lefty holed it, of course.

“Payne starts smiling and high-fiving Mickelson because I just lost $1,600 and he only lost $400,” Azinger said. “I was so mad. That’s when I knew Mickelson was going to be a really good player.”

Tin cup cash

One crazy Mickelson bet came during the filming of the movie “Tin Cup.” Cheech Marin played a caddie in the film and spoke to Golf Digest about an amazing shot he witnessed.

“We were between scenes, standing around, and someone came up with a bet,” Marin said. “There was this really tall pine tree, and someone said to Phil Mickelson, ‘I bet you can’t put your shoulder against the tree, drop a ball and hit it over the tree.’ The shot basically had to go straight up. Everybody threw in a hundred bucks. I think there was $1,200 in the pot. And he did it! When the ball was still in the air, Mickelson bent over, picked up the money, and put it in his pocket.”

Tough putts, pine trees – no problem.

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Sean Chaffin

Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas, and host of the True Gambling Stories podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @PokerTraditions.

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