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Phil Mickelson Challenges Tiger Woods for Golf’s Biggest Scandal Title

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Phil Mickelson's illegal sports gambling activities raise questions about the integrity of professional golf. Will he address the allegations? (Photo: Chris Condon/PGA Tour)

Phil Mickelson’s illegal sports gambling activities raise questions about the integrity of professional golf. Will he address the allegations? (Photo: Chris Condon/PGA Tour)

Tiger Woods scandalized golf with his serial infidelity, but pro golfer Phil Mickelson is challenging him for the title of “Golf’s Biggest Scandal” for his involvement in illegal sports betting including on professional golf. Which is worse?

Mickelson is also ethically if not legally complicit in a money laundering scheme that he used to shield his connections to nearly $3 million in illegal sports betting accounts.

Cincinnati Reds star Pete Rose was banned from major league baseball for life and denied entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame for illegal sports betting, including betting on major league baseball games both as a coach and player.

Mickelson was previously slapped on the wrist by the PGA, which governs professional golf, for laying $25 on 20-to-1 bet that pro golfer Jim Furyk would sink a shot. He won the bet.

Mickelson, who has a pristine professional reputation, was implicated in the illegal betting operation by a former bookie who admitted laundering millions of dollars from the golfer, according to ESPN’s Outside.

The bookie, Gregory Silveira, 56, of La Quinta, Calif., cut a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to three counts of money laundering involving transactions between 2010 and 2013. Silveira worked for an offshore gambling organization.

During that time span, Mickelson, 45, won the 2010 Masters Tournament, one of golf’s most prestigious tournaments. He was also favored to with the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, but faltered late, and ended up tied for fourth place.

At the 2013 U.S. Open, Mickelson entered the final round leading by one stroke, but ended tied for second, in what he called his most heartbreaking loss. Prior to that he won the British Open, another major title.

Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that the FBI and SEC were investigating Mickelson for alleged insider trading in Clorox stock on a reported tip from maverick investor Carl Icahn. At the time, 2011, Icahn was trying to buy the company.

Those charges didn’t pan out for lack of evidence and he’s likely to dodge indictment this time. Federal law focuses on gambling rather than the gamblers who provide the funds, unless that person knew the money would be laundered.

But that doesn’t let Phil off the hook morally or ethically.

Tiger’s lapse was moral and ethical as well, but it was ultimately a personal matter and did not involve the integrity of his sport. Phil’s does, and that makes his behavior far worse.

Sports betting is illegal everywhere except Nevada for a reason–it corrupts the game.

At the very least, Mickelson needs to make a complete disclosure of his sports betting activities and reveal whether he bet on golf.

The PGA also needs to investigate and sanction Mickelson if his betting in any way touched on golf. It’s supposed to be a gentleman’s game that relies on the players to maintain the integrity of the sport.

And, right now, Phil’s integrity is under a dark cloud.

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