Phil

by Alan Shipnuck

Kirkus A probing biography of the enigmatic golfer. “[Phil] Mickelson has spent his career charming, and manipulating, the media,” writes veteran Sports Illustrated writer Shipnuck, author of The Battle for Augusta National, near the end of this eye-opening portrait of a superstar athlete who “is many things, but never boring.” In his latest book, the author seeks “to reconcile the multitudes within Mickelson”—extraordinary golfer, smart ass, loving husband, gambler, consummate professional. Shipnuck chronicles his subject’s life and game in great detail, employing excellent insider stories and quotes from a wide range of players. Early on, notes the author, Mickelson honed his short-game skills (arguably the best ever) in his backyard. “This little practice green, built and lovingly maintained by Phil’s dad, is where genius was made, not born,” writes Shipnuck, who touches all the bases when describing Mickelson’s burgeoning career, from qualifying for a PGA tournament during high school to joining Jack Nicklaus as the only other player to win the U.S. Amateur and the NCAA championship in the same year. Mickelson won his first tournament in 1991, as an amateur, and turned pro in 1992, the same year he met his future wife, Amy. As Shipnuck wryly notes, he took special pleasure in the lucrative pre-tournament gambling games and then unleashed his relentless “bomb ’n’ gouge” playing style. The author also digs into the rivalry with Tiger Woods, noting how its “antipathy was born on the playing fields of junior golf.” Shipnuck keeps it lively as he recounts Mickelson’s many wins—including his first Masters in 2004 and a much sought-after British Open, in 2013—and his election to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011. The author doesn’t shy away from his subject’s dark side, chronicling his nasty breakup with his longtime caddie, Bones Mackay, as well as “very public gambling debts [and] shady Mob-adjacent associates.” Golf and sports fans will enjoy this feisty, in-depth portrait. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Sports Illustrated writer Shipnuck (Bud, Sweat, and Tees) delivers a rollicking look at the career of legendary golfer Phil Mickelson, a “subject of much fascination and more than a little scorn.” Drawing on years of insider access, Shipnuck provides readers unfettered access to the larger-than-life sports figure, from his beginnings in the 1980s as a plucky underdog who could never quite win a Major tournament to becoming one of golf’s all-time greats. Moving at a breezy pace, Shipnuck entertains with cryptic stories about Mickelson’s possibly murderous grandfather, from whom Mickelson inherited his “ferocious killer instinct”; recounts the golfer’s decades-long antipathy with his “nemesis” Tiger Woods; and highlights Mickelson’s rise to success, starting with the consequential birdie putt that led to his 2004 Masters win and capping with 2021’s historic PGA Championship, where, at 50 years old, he became the oldest golfer to secure a Major. However, in spite of the “perma-grin and goofy thumbs-up,” Shipnuck lucidly points out that Mickelson’s appearances could be incredibly deceiving, and it’s his particularly eye-opening treatment of the golfer’s less savory side—namely his recent involvement with a Saudi-backed golf league (in one startling conversation with Shipnuck, Mickelson admits “we know they killed... Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights”)—that give this account remarkable depth. Fans shouldn’t miss this. (May)

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