Reviews for Phil

by Alan Shipnuck

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

This biography of golfer Phil Mickelson might have been just another sports book about an outstanding athlete with a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality—until author Shipnuck released an excerpt in which Mickelson discusses his decision to help promote the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour. Mickelson admits the Saudis are "bad guys" but callously claims it was worth dealing with them to gain leverage in negotiations with the PGA Tour. That response went viral. So what of the other 80 percent of the book? Though often swimming in the wake of his slightly younger rival, Tiger Woods, Mickelson has had a phenomenal golf career—including winning the PGA Championship in 2021, at age 50—and Shipnuck capably reprises all the highlights. He also addresses the lowlights, the self-indulgent Hyde side of Mickelson's personality, including the fact that the golfer apparently amassed more than $40 million in gambling debts from 2010 through 2014. Then there's the altruistic Jekyll side: a sterling record for charity work, as well as numerous acts of kindness to players and fans. In all, a thoroughly readable portrait of a man who, for good and ill, shatters every stereotype of golfers as personality-deficient cyphers.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: It takes a scandal to make a golf book a bestseller, and this one has a doozy.


Publishers Weekly
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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)


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

This biography of golfer Phil Mickelson might have been just another sports book about an outstanding athlete with a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality—until author Shipnuck released an excerpt in which Mickelson discusses his decision to help promote the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour. Mickelson admits the Saudis are "bad guys" but callously claims it was worth dealing with them to gain leverage in negotiations with the PGA Tour. That response went viral. So what of the other 80 percent of the book? Though often swimming in the wake of his slightly younger rival, Tiger Woods, Mickelson has had a phenomenal golf career—including winning the PGA Championship in 2021, at age 50—and Shipnuck capably reprises all the highlights. He also addresses the lowlights, the self-indulgent Hyde side of Mickelson's personality, including the fact that the golfer apparently amassed more than $40 million in gambling debts from 2010 through 2014. Then there's the altruistic Jekyll side: a sterling record for charity work, as well as numerous acts of kindness to players and fans. In all, a thoroughly readable portrait of a man who, for good and ill, shatters every stereotype of golfers as personality-deficient cyphers.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: It takes a scandal to make a golf book a bestseller, and this one has a doozy.

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